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. JB

    Most of you have no clue! Have you been there? Being a vet I can honestly say I have! They are using these copters to protect solders from being victims of IEDS! They have been testing these for the last five years and have pretty much got all the bugs worked out! Yes they cost millions of dollars but aren't American Soldiers worth the price? They are there away from the US protecting our rights! Or did you forget that? You all need to do a little research before you speak up! I fel these will save alot of lives. If you use real helicopters how many of those will get shot down and how many pilots and soldiers die? You really need to think about he Vets tha hae already sacraficed their legs and arms because of the IEDS. Go to a vet hospital and look at all the men and women who are in therapy afte loosing a leg or and arm. And ask them how they feel? They will tell you ues they are mad but they did it for their country!

    October 21, 2010 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • TimmyT

      Being a vet you can honestly say you have? What does taking care of cats and dogs have to do with military and helicopters??

      October 21, 2010 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • gottahandittohim

      Relax JB. I think most here agree with you and if they dont who cares. By the way, my guess is that a remote chopper costs less than a manned one

      October 21, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick from LA

      The US Military of tomorrow will have no regrets, no sorrow, no pain, and most importantly no heart. I love the idea of augmenting human forces with semi-autonomous systems. The new unmaned land vehicles, this new robotic cargo copter, but I fear that if we stockpile a unliving assault force we may be more prone to use them liberally. I am a advocate of autonomus logistics and support vehicles but I am an opponent of atonomous attack systems. I like the Reaper and the older predator since they are still under the control of a human pilot somewhere's in the world. But the systems of tomorrow that can identify engage and destroy adversaries without human input scares me greatly. We will be the 1st to have them but make no mistake our adversaries will have them too. A living soldier can question illegal orders even not perform them. A digital soldier will follow it's programed action 100% of the time, illegal or not.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      – @ TimmyT –

      He's refering to being a vet like a veteran, moron... Not a vet like a veterinarian.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. TimmyT

    Being a vet you can honestly say you have? What does taking care of cats and dogs have to do with military and helicopters?

    October 21, 2010 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Ian

      your joke is good, no?

      October 21, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Giz

      No, it is very dumb, and extremely disrespectful.

      October 22, 2010 at 4:27 am | Report abuse |
  3. Seraphim0

    Unmanned drones firing off missiles. Unmanned helicopters ferrying supplies... So... when they get the unmanned ground vehicles all covered... is that when we finally call it Skynet?

    October 21, 2010 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Vinny

      Just because they call it "unmanned" does not mean that there are not people who operate it

      October 21, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seraphim0


      Vinny... my post was a joke. I know that they are remotely controlled by operators and not run by any sort of virtual or artificual intelligence....

      October 21, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • robert

      @Seraphim0, jokes like that don't work because there are people who post here who are really that ignorant. Besides, it really wasn't that funny.

      October 23, 2010 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
  4. dave in australia

    just goes to show where this war is heading, US forces increasingly bottled up in their compounds, scared to death (excuse the pun) of even being out on roadsides lest they get hit by an IED. I know guys over there, they spend 20hrs a day inside heavily fortified posts, and occasionaly actually get out into the field on patrols, in stupid 35kms radius's of their bases. The insurgents own the remote areas, they have got these troops on the back-foot. Learn the lessons of the past and get out of there and stop wasting the lives of these poor kids your government is sending over there. Its simply not worth it, wake up you yanks

    October 21, 2010 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Globe trotter

      Our boys and girls are out there so that idiots like you have the freedom to sit in front of your computer down under and write such idiotic comments on CNN. We are out there to give the same freedom to our fellow muslim brothers and sisters who are held hostage by some of these extremists. We will prevail! Semper Fi..........

      October 21, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick from LA

      This war cannot be won with a safe heaven allowed to our enemies. We are falling down the same grave we dug in Vietnam, only our weapon cost alot more. Our soldiers are unstoppable if given full reign to do as is needed however we must temper that power with compassion for the innocent civilians. We must sheathe the sabre for fear of running it through a friend. In dosing so we give our enemies free control over the battlefield. The US Military is powerful, but our enemies lay out of reach. Killing 5 with a drone attack does not make the other thousand retreat, when they already resigned themselves to a martyr's fate, nor we the stomache to outlast our enemies because of our impatience and lack of will. Return our children to their homes and leave that part of the world to rot. We have the power to destroy nations but lack the knowledge to build one.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. the Amazing Kreskin

    I see unmanned "ghetto birds" in L.A.'s future.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. phil

    @aussie....our troops are protecting China's energy supply to keep our credit going. If we recall the troops, China will stop extending credit to US. Now go play kangaroo and leave this stuff to US.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. rme

    Droans and remote helicopters! Let's go here! It's time to fight this war the way our military can really fight it. Light up the enemy. I'm sorry if "civilians" are there, but if you hang with the insurgents you might as well figure you will meet the same end result. If we can't fight this war like we should then we need to come home. Roll out the new high tech gear and test it over there. Our troops need as much help as possible.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • totalmax

      i totally agree,so many people complain or are so worried about civilians,if they are where the enemy are than they must take the same fate as the enemy!!!!!

      October 22, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Babak from LA

    Great toy! I would love to see one in action. Although the cost factor is concerning.
    This week on Monday my kids stayed home, no school. We live in Los Angeles area. The schools have a forlough day. Teachers don't get paid and don't need to work .... But I guess that does not matter, since we have really cool toys to play with.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick from LA

      Education or peace. Which would your hold to higher regard. Though one does lead to the other.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. esreddy3

    To win a war that cannot be won, we need soldiers that cant be killed. 'nuff said.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick from LA

      but these can be destroyed and the still feed on fuel and bleed oil. Though they do not breathe they still can be killed.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tom, Long Beach, California

    actaully much cheaper than mnnned aircraft....human factors add great costs to projects.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Johnna

    I say load em up with hellfire missiles and let em loose to clean up whats left after the drones do the main job.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick from LA

      We already have that unmaned heli, it's operated by the USNavy. It's called the MQ-8 Fire Scout made by Northrop. It cannot carry hellfires but it can have 8 5inch laser guided rockets or a 7.62mm gun pod.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Halogens

    Nothing really new here except the missions. These experiments have been going on since the 1950's, using full-sized Hughes and Kaman military helicopters.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. uh oh

    i think this is how terminator started....first we get our electronics and devices to do things for us like fly airplanes without ppl in them, then we develop a program so good it can make decisions on its own...then one day it starts making decisions alone..

    October 21, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. CAM

    God Bless America

    October 21, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trash

      God has eff all to do with this.

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

    Think about the marines in these re-supply missions. Too dangerous to send manned aircraft for resupply but these grunts on the ground tough it out.

    Tough mothereffers these guys are.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
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