An unmanned K-MAX chopper developed by Lockheed Martin and Kaman has successfully completed test trials at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.
The test trials were set out for the chopper by the US Marines as part of their immediate cargo unmanned aerial system project.
During the pre-programmed and remote-controlled flight tests, the pilotless K-MAX moved 3,000lb using two 150nm round-trip flights within the required six-hour timeframe.
Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors vice-president Dan Spoor said the system performed a rigorous set of cargo resupply scenarios as programmed, allowing the ground-based operator to monitor progress, and make adjustments to aircraft positioning.
The K-MAX chopper remained in touch with its ground station using both line-of-sight communications and satellite relay, and demonstrated the ability to upload a new flight plan in the air.
In addition, the K-MAX team demonstrated the unmanned chopper's four-hook carousel, which allows multiload deliveries in a single flight.
The aircraft flew to three pre-programmed delivery coordinates lifting a total cargo of 3,450lb and autonomously releasing the load at each location.
A fourth load delivery was performed under manual control by the ground operator.
The K-MAX chopper is said to be best suited for Afghan operations where supplies often need to go by helicopter to forward bases that are under fire.