Kaman division Kaman Air Vehicles has secured a US Navy contract to upgrade two K-MAX low-maintenance aircraft.

The development of the next generation of K-MAX Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) programmes is aimed at supporting the US Marine Corps (USMC) future operating concepts.

These logistics systems will reduce the risk to servicepeople, adding flexibility and speed of distribution to various sizes of ground formations.

Kaman Air Vehicles business development senior director Romin Dasmalchi said: “We have a combat-proven system that sustained over 95% readiness while in the field.

“Looking ahead, the next-generation aircraft will leverage advancements in unmanned technologies and will add new autonomy capabilities.”

The two K-MAX aircraft that are being upgraded by Kaman will feature improved autonomous capabilities including a new unmanned system, ground control station, and sensor-based autonomy.

Kaman Air Vehicles division vice-president and general manager Darlene Smith said: “We are extremely proud that we can provide new, life-saving systems that will directly support our deployed warfighters and give them a distinct advantage.”

Kaman is also developing a new K-MAX UAS kit for commercial applications. The first flight is scheduled for the third quarter of this year.

Helicopter Express and Swanson Group Aviation have placed orders for unmanned system kits, with deliveries expected next year. The kits will be installed on existing aircraft, as well as on new production K-MAX helicopters.

The rugged K-MAX aircraft, which is capable of lifting up to 6,000lb, features a counter-rotating rotor system and is optimised for cyclical, external load operations.

Last May, Kaman Aerospace won a contract to reactivate two unmanned USMC K-MAX helicopters to flight operations.