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. Alex

    Nobody wants our soldiers in the line of fire, but as our weapons of war become remote, I fear that conflicts may actually become more prevalent because we know that our soldiers are at no risk.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • silvershado

      Let's hope we're past that sci-fi theme.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bubba

    Pretty soon we'll be able to run the entire war of terror from Washington using a few joysticks and satellite cameras. "Bring it on!"

    October 21, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bill

    So when these unmanned helicopters get shot down thats more ammunition and supplies going to the insurgents via the american dollar

    October 21, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seraphim0

      Because we all know that when a manned aircraft carrying supplies goes down they get nothing.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tom Marchegiano

    This concept was developed over 15 years ago by the Marine Corps Warfigting Lab and experimented in the first warfighting exercise Hunter Warrior in 1996. Welcome to the party rest of the military. You're still playing catch up to the Marine Corps. Semper fi.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • another John

      and the Navy has operated DASH helos (unmanned, remote-controlled) since 1963 – originally for anti-submarine weapons – now used for towing targets.

      October 21, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. steve77

    it sure looks like we're edging closer to a Matrix/Terminator world....where machines will rule the world...lol.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. @uh oh

    Oh my God it's Skynet...we're screwed.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. eatmywords

    Am I the only one who finds this absolutely embarrassing? The amount we spend on our military every year is just ridiculous. Any country knows not to mess with us by now, so there is no point for this amount of spending. Let's actually pour money into NASA instead of useless military science.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • silvershado

      I wouldn't call this useless.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bob

    ok to all these people who r complaining about defense spending think of it like this.....if we didnt spend the money to defend our country then we would most likely get bombed. or worse, nuked by the taliban. i wouldnt be surprised if they already have nukes

    October 21, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • silvershado

      Nuked by the Taliban? That would mean delivery by truck. But, in truth, a reasonable fear and the hardest to detect and prevent.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Vanunu Mordechai,

    Very good developments,then you can also put on helicopters Robots soldiers,why risk soldiers,later we can have all the army run by robots Computers and fighting other machines,robots soldiers, and air plans and helicopters,that is the best solution to all wars,and they can fight each other in some desert,or on the moon,
    Any way this is the future the direction no reverses,toward machines,and robots,toward zero Armies,Human being don't need any armies any more.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bob

    but i do have to agree with eatmywords. if we spent more on NASA we could achieve further space travel within 5-10 years and wouldnt have to worry about military spending once we can finally reach other planets duhhhhhh.

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

      In my opinion, this IS helping the space program. Our economy may only just be recovering, but perhaps one of the few direct benifits we are getting from this war is that our already top notch technology is now completley top of the line (till china steals it, of course. they have good spies). The next biggest thing will probably hit the feilds before 2020: exoskeletons, and then I will truely be worried. But all this technology in the military does directly affect the space program, as the military does share it's tech with NASA.

      October 22, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. eatmywords

    First of all, building pointless aircraft like this isn't stopping anyone from bombing us. If the Taliban really had the technology to nuke us they would have already. It's all you scared Americans that make our country look like a piece of crap

    October 21, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  12. eatmywords

    and bob, i wasn't talking to you about that last comment. it's about every idiot above ^ haha

    October 21, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DNSmith

    Munk, 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 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • U.S. Military Major- John Smith

      All of you guys need to shut your mouth. None of yall no anything that goes on in the military and never will. So i have a suggestion for all of you. Put down your remote, turn of the tv and the computer and go sign up for the marines, then maybe i will talk to you. seeing as though none of yall have any combat experience other than Call of Duty, leave it to the people who do this for a living. Thanks.

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

      Well USArmy Major, I am a retired military regular army officer with 27 years of active duty and I know of what I speak. If you don't believe me search ARPANET and then do a little research before showing your ignorance.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JohnH1976

    Did anyone watching the video notice that the controls they were using to pilot the helicopter was an XBox controler?

    October 21, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • U.S. Military Major- John Smith

      All of you guys need to shut your mouth. None of yall no anything that goes on in the military and never will. So i have a suggestion for all of you. Put down your remote, turn of the tv and the computer and go sign up for the marines, then maybe i will talk to you. seeing as though none of yall have any combat experience other than Call of Duty, leave it to the people who do this for a living. Thanks. @ John no one cares that they are xbox controllers except for you because you didnt go to college so you are now stuck at home playing video games all day. Sorry Man its the truth.

      October 21, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • U.S. Military Major- John Smith

      @ John no one cares that they are xbox controllers except for you because you didnt go to college so you are now stuck at home playing video games all day. Sorry Man its the truth.

      October 21, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick from LA

      The Xbox contorller uses multiple buttons and levers as well as an accelerometer for motion input control. It's is configured to optimize human reflexes and lays out the controls in a easy to reach configuration packed into a highly ergonomic design. What more it's made in America.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • There is obviously no evidence for evolution, stupid.

      "All of you guys need to shut your mouth. None of yall no anything that goes on in the military and never will. So i have a suggestion for all of you. Put down your remote, turn of the tv and the computer and go sign up for the marines, then maybe i will talk to you."

      And i work in a molecular biology lab and feel the need to belittle everyone who talks about anything science related because they obviously have no right to talk about my expertise. Friggin moron. That my friend, is why your job is to risk your life and mine is to help save them. Oh, and i play xbox and am much smarter than you.

      No i dont feel this way for real, but you come off like a total d-ba9.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • kite005

      U.S. Military Major- John Smith You're funny. You think you're the only veteran or active duty person who posts here. Or maybe just a troll.

      October 23, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bud

    Opposing twin rotors, no anti-torque tail rotor needed. Looks like the operator has to be right there but I'm sure they'll gear it up like a Preditor for operation. Delivery of supplies via GPS coords. Weather would be non-restrictive.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bugs

      Looks like a Kaman helicopter – famous for those twin opposing rotors. Remember the Husky from the Vietnam era? Same outfit, same design. I'm wondering if the contra-rotating rotor configuration makes it easier to control electronically...

      October 21, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick from LA

      It's gives the design reduced drag and higher top speed. The tail rotor on a convential bird acts like a speed brake, using a twin tandem ala Chinook require complex gears and transmission that are prone to fail. The intermeshing design allow both propellers to be powered by the same eninge with minimal connecting transmissions. As for speed. A helicopter's top speed is limited by the relative speed of the retreating blade. If the craft is moving faster forward then the rotor is moving backwards, Helicopter will roll violently. Using this intermeshing design means that lift from the retreating blades are not necessary as both side of the craft is supported by progessing blades. I think the reason we have not seen more of this design was due to this configuration being patented. It works well.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
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