October 21st, 2010
10:03 AM ET

U.S. military to experiment with unmanned helicopters

The U.S. military is hoping to use remote-controlled helicopters like these, shown in January 2010, for supply delivery.

Faced with increasing casualties from roadside bombs in Afghanistan, the U.S. military will experiment with remote-controlled, unmanned helicopters to deliver supplies to remote outposts, the U.S. Navy said.

The U.S. Navy is seeking a contractor to operate the program, planned for the last quarter of 2011, Eric Pratson, leader of the U.S. Navy team behind the project, told CNN.

“This is a rapid deployment effort being led by the Navy in response to an urgent needs requirement for a Cargo UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) capability in support of Marine Corps forces engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom,” Pratson told Stars and Stripes, which first reported the plan.

Lockheed-Martin and Kaman Aerospace say their K-MAX unmanned helicopter system can do the job. They tested it at the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground earlier this year and it met or exceeded requirements, according to a Lockheed-Martin statement.

Video: Watch K-MAX test

“It keeps our Marines readily resupplied and out of harm’s way,” Dan Spoor, Lockheed Martin Aviation Systems vice president, said in a statement.

The company says the K-MAX can operate day or night, deliver up to 3,450 pounds of supplies to up to four locations per trip and hover at 12,000 feet.

Boeing's A160T.

Boeing is also vying for the contract with its A160T Hummingbird unmanned copter, the company said Wednesday. It said the A160T passed a Marine Corps test in March, successfully delivering 2,500 pounds of supplies during a simulated mission.

“This capability will save lives by getting troops and trucks off of roads where they are highly vulnerable to IED attacks,” Vic Sweberg, director, Boeing Unmanned Airborne Systems, said in a statement.

Boeing’s website says the A160T can stay aloft for 24 hours and operate as high as 30,000 feet, 10,000 feet higher than conventional copters. It has a payload of 2,500 pounds, Boeing says.

The program is still open to other bidders, Pratson told CNN in an e-mail.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Military
soundoff (226 Responses)
  1. :D

    Those little helicopters from Radioshack don't even work the way they're supposed to.

    Oh this'll be fun to watch turn sour.

    October 21, 2010 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      I hope you aren't seriously comparing a $20 toy, to a million dollar military aircraft...

      October 21, 2010 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Arsio

      Lol he's right look at that thing, id laugh if it ever try to shoot me lol

      October 21, 2010 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • trixen

      Arsio: Did you read the article? These helicopters are designed to deliver supplies, not shoot people. We already have drones that take care of the latter just fine.

      October 21, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Rick from LA

      This is a Utility helo not meant for attack. Think of these a mechanical pack mules that don't need a guide to show them where to go.

      My concern is how long before the 15 chinese kids find out how to hack it and make it deliver weapons and supplies to our enemies?

      October 21, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • gottahandittohim

      looks pretty darn awesome to me. Not to mention very capable. I must say that would be pretty cool job.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • giorgio serafini

      K-MAX ottimo salvavita soldati.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • midnightblue

      What about a James Bond style action man parachute? Safer and cheaper.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • YukinoJudas

      @Rick from LA probably not long. Last I heard the predator drones don't use any kind of firewall so that the connection between controller and drone is fast and unhindered. I would bet these are the same.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • :(

      $20 radio shack heli vs $2+ million military heli, u must be on just for laughs cuz ur soo funny...not

      October 21, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dexter

      I read the comments and just wonder how we will avoid becoming a 3rd world nation.

      ".....Last I heard the predator drones don't use any kind of firewall......."

      Right – I'm sure you can just telnet in and get it going like that little girl in Jerrasic Park. Don't you think they have some way to authenticate and encrypt commands. I know video was intercepted – now fixed – from drones – but commands.....

      I'm waiting for India and China to outsource all their BS work to America – oh its coming at the rate of these comments.......

      October 21, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh C

      Its a better way to Hijack (JK) an Aircraft now all you need to do is get the remote-controller from who ever is controlling it.
      wow where are a smart country. lol

      October 21, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      Just one more step closer to living out the movie "Terminator".

      October 21, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • DAISHI

      Ever heard the phrase "The last pilot has already been born" ?

      October 21, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      That million dollar military aircraft, which a group of terrorists with a cheap bomb have compelled us to use for supply deliveries in lieu of a $30,000 truck, shows that our Democrat leaders have not the common sense with which to win this war.

      October 21, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Jack, since IED's have been blowing up military vehicles and men since the war STARTED, I guess Republicans don't know how to run or win a war either.
      I've lost buddies to those IED's and then had their funerals picketed by Westboro Batptist church! So kindly take your political ignorance somewhere else.
      This is an idea LONG overdue. No risk to personnel, as there is no pilot, the command link will be secure, like the predator control links and supplies will arrive a LOT faster than a truck ever COULD get them to a forward operating base or even further forward.
      And another item, the military hasn't gotten a truck for $30000 in decades. Learn what a heavy supply truck is worth.

      October 21, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      "id laugh if it ever try to shoot me lol" What's the difference what it looks like? If it's capable of shooting at you you better be smart enough to take cover and try to eliminate the threat, not laugh.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      Dude, if I were you, I've already contacted Pentagon telling them not to use helicopters from Radio Shack.

      May be you'll get a medal for that.

      October 21, 2010 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stevo

      Weren't those RadioShack helo made in China?

      October 21, 2010 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bert

      Yeah, what happens when The Enema hacks into your control system, and suddenly your multi-million-dollar remote control toy is chasing you down the street? Penguin's out there...

      October 22, 2010 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
    • T-Navy

      US Navy had operated unmanned radio controlled helicopters years ago to deliver full size torpedoes with live munitions against submarines at a stand-off range for the destroyer. This is use of helicopters is nothing new, albeit with bigger payloads and expanded parameters. Yes, I flew the birds.
      http://www.gyrodynehelicopters.com/dash_history.htm
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gyrodyne_QH-50_DASH

      October 22, 2010 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • not bob levy

      @ Arsio...then you'd be dead.
      -not bob levy

      October 22, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • jeff G

      Why unmanned Helicopters?? Whats wrong with human pilots. Don't want them to be put in harms way? LOL Hello people its war!!!!!!! Ys, thats right people get killed in war. ITs a fact of life. We have no more money to waste on this crap. Put a gun in a soldiers hands and send him into war for crying out loud

      October 22, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • luvuall

      This is off topic but why haven't manned helicopters evolved to include ejection systems to give the pilots a chance to escape from a crashing helicopter?

      October 23, 2010 at 3:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      Wonderful news, it keeps our personnel safe from the injuries on the ground. It can get into the difficult sites that cannot be reached by planes. When it works, our enemies will have to either fight in the open or surrender. It will make it much more difficult to attack us and we choose the location. Use technology to win the fight. No more amputations and brain injuries from the IEDs.

      October 23, 2010 at 6:42 am | Report abuse |
  2. Kang

    What has roadside bombs to do with manned or unmanned copter. They both go in air??

    October 21, 2010 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • DarthWoo

      Roadside bombs tend to blow up things that are on the road on the side of which they are placed. Helicopters don't need roads and are safely above any reasonable blast radius of such devices. Thus, if you can send supplies through the air instead of over the road, you don't risk your supplies getting blown up by roadside bombs. If it's unmanned, then you don't even risk losing a trained pilot to some lucky small arms fire or SAMs.

      October 21, 2010 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Doc

      Roads?! Where we're going, we don't need roads...

      October 21, 2010 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Seraphim0

      Nice, Doc. Heh. Made me spit out my coffee.

      October 21, 2010 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • bailoutsos

      Billions spent on killing in Afghanistan, chump change spent on helping in Haiti.

      October 22, 2010 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  3. JohnnyInSNJ, Blackwood, NJ

    Rise of the Machines. You THINK you have control.

    October 21, 2010 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  4. Munk

    What a waste of money. Seriously. We spend so much on defense it's pathetic. We're the best..can we leave it at that? Noo...let's waste 3.5 million dollars into a helicopter that's going to crash and crash until our guys in their little simulators get it right. Before you know it, the MACHINES will take over just like in the terminator and we'll all be sorry then.

    😀 makes a good point, but is being sarcastic Chris.

    Kang...let's see an unmanned aircraft could lock on to the target and blow it up.

    October 21, 2010 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Munk, here is the footage of an unmanned aircraft blowing up something, as you requested:
      http://viralfootage.com/?p=3235

      October 21, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      Yes, because we need to spend a lot more money in welfare and lazy people like you who do nothing but complain. If you don't like your freedom then feel free to get out of the country. Otherwise, stop complaining about Defense spending. If all research/development is stopped, you're just giving the other guys a chance to get ahead of you. But then again, who am I to change the liberal mind...

      October 21, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • DNSmith

      I guess you are one of the few dimmwits who are not aware that military, space and government research and development programs are responsible for the early development of the internet (ARPANET), propulsion, communication and electronics (early cell phones) battery technology and many more useful technologies we now use without thanks for that research.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bert

      I'll bet we end up spending a trillion a year on defense before 2020. Maybe even more.

      October 22, 2010 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
  5. thadea

    BFBC2!!

    October 21, 2010 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Wipeless

      Heheh, I totally get you.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • There is obviously no evidence for evolution, stupid.

      BFBC2? nah, it was fun for a while but starcraft 2 is the only thing that gets me wet anymore.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • zero

      bfbc2 vietnam oh ya

      October 22, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. thadea

    Oh and just use the helicopters we've got...there are plenty of people without jobs...create some jobs instead of wasting money on this right now.

    October 21, 2010 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • DarthWoo

      I think that building the new craft might create a few jobs, and I'm sure the existing chopper pilots (who, being in the military have presumably good job security, since people aren't exactly enlisting in droves) would be happy to sit out these supply runs if it means they're not risking getting shot down over delivering some rations.

      October 21, 2010 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Texan

      Dart, rations keep our troops fed. Idiot.

      October 21, 2010 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Texan, you are the idiot here. The entire flipping article is about drone helicopters delivering rations/supplies so that we don't risk losing pilots. Dart, or Darth as his name actually is, was making the correct point that the pilots won't mind sitting in a safe area controlling the drone from afar instead of risking their lives to deliver those rations piloting from inside the craft (instead they just risk losing the machine). He also was pointing out that this would create jobs as it would require people to design and build these helicopters.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Res

      I think the point is to quickly replace trucks with choppers. Getting something new in place can be better then ordering old design choppers and training new pilots. They are thinking strategically about solving this issue in my opinion.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Arsio

    And i thought Iran's flying boats were scary!!!!!

    October 21, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • MooMoo4U

      You should see their cows...

      October 21, 2010 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
    • gottahandittohim

      I read that article and saw the pics..... VERY IMPRESSSIVE!!

      October 21, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. pcg

    Not really new. Navy had them in the 60s.

    October 21, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. It's Me

    This is GREAT news. Now we can kill even more of these Stone Age living nut cases without even putting our soldiers at risk. MORE!!! MORE!!!! MORE!!!!!

    October 21, 2010 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Ash

      Easiest way to solve the problem is build one little drone. Add one little bomb and turn the whole place into a field of glass. Walla! Problem solved!

      October 21, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      I bet you are an ignorant arrogant red neck and you are fathing from your mouth.

      October 21, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Tbone

      All these people talking about using nukes and making derogatory remarks about arabic people are most likely zionists or Israelis , the most racist regime on the planet.

      October 21, 2010 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Sidewinder

      You know Afghanis aren't arabs...right?

      October 21, 2010 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • God Didn't Make Me Do It

      I'm an atheist and I say glass the bastages.

      October 23, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  10. Bull

    Build drone ground fighters.Not drone helos.

    October 21, 2010 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • gottahandittohim

      Thats next

      October 21, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  11. db

    nuke um and get it over with.

    October 21, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  12. db

    Go to limited nuke and get it over with.

    October 21, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  13. aj

    If only they could get rid of that cord going to the battery pack on the ground now.

    October 21, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • nw

      last time i checked thats supplies not a battery

      October 21, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lionel

      That's the supplies, not the "battery pack". Drones still run on fuel you know...

      October 21, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rich

      aj was making a joke. And a pretty funny one, at that.

      October 21, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Embargo Bob

    Can they make the drone helicopters look like the ones from Terminator 3?

    October 21, 2010 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Rick from LA

      Yes. But turbo fans are less effecient then standard rotor blades for verticle lift aircraft.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. EternalBliss

    The technology for highly developed "unmanned" or "remote-controlled" military has existed for sometime now.. not to mention... fully robotic tactical military machines exist as well.. just think about it.. if the XBOX kinect can "see" you and recognize you the way it does.. what do u think the military has???

    October 21, 2010 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • DarthWoo

      Kinect, eh? That'll be all well and good until the enemy sits down and thus becomes invisible! 😉

      October 21, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
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