The naval forces of the United States conducted the tests of the new cargo unmanned helicopter K-MAX in Afghanistan. The aircraft successfully completed the mission to deliver cargo and, by some accounts, took over full operational readiness.
Experts call this event a new era in the history of world aviation as the industry enters the time of unmanned aerial logistics, Aviation Week said.
Unmanned helicopters will reduce the risk to pilots and other personnel. In addition, they can perform more sorties, because the aircraft, as opposed to a live pilot, hardly needs a rest.
The robot helicopter was built by Lockheed Martin and Kaman Aerospace. The K-MAX can fly in standalone and remote control modes, as well as under the direction of the pilot, who can take a seat in the cockpit. The chopper weighs 2.5 tons. It is capable of lifting the cargo of up to 3.5 tons and delivering it at a distance of up to 400 km. Autonomous navigation is performed through a system of GPS.
The manned K-MAX, released in a small series, are used for civil purposes as a "flying crane" on timber and construction sites.
According to the military, most missions are conducted at night and at high altitudes in order to protect the K-MAX from small arms. The helicopters still operate solely as trucks, transporting more than three tons per day.
It is expected the robocopters will work in Afghanistan for six months, after which the U.S. military gives a comprehensive assessment to the drones. Most likely, the new copters will be passed into service.