The U.S. Marine Corps have successfully tested a transport helicopter UAV. A year ago the marines began shopping for a UAV to deliver supplies, at least half a ton per trip, in order to get essential items (ammo, water, food) to combat troops in remote locations. The marines wanted the UAV in action within six months, but no one was able to come up with anything in time. Some firms told the marines they were working on it, and one of these outfits, Kaman, modified its K-MAX manned helicopter to meet marine requirements.
The K-MAX is a 5.4 ton helicopter with a cruising speed of 148 kilometers an hour and an endurance of over six hours. It can carry up to 2.7 tons slung underneath. This made the K-MAX an ideal candidate for the marine UAV. When the K-MAX UAV was tested, it successfully met the marine requirements. It was able to carry a 680 kg (1,500 pound) sling load to 12,000 feet (3,900 meters), and hover. It was able to deliver 2.7 tons of cargo, to a point 270 kilometers distant, within six hours (two round trips). The K-MAX UAV can also carry up to four separate sling loads (totaling 1,568 kg, or 3,450 pounds).
The manufacturer has flown the K-MAX 400 hours so far, and the manned K-MAX has logged over 250,000 hours worldwide. The marines were confident enough in the K-MAX UAV to pay Kaman $860,000 last August to fund the conversion of the manned version of a Kaman helicopter to a UAV. Now the marines have to decide if they want to buy the K-MAX UAV, how many and how soon.