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. John

    Hire Google. They have driver-less cars.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bob

    ya ik lol but still i dont think the taliban would just nuke us right away. what they like to do is scare us. im sure that if they do have nukes they will wait awhile to use them untill their satisfied that america is scared of them.....

    October 21, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bob

    AND maybe none of us WANT to know what happens in the military.......

    October 21, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bugs

    As a friend of mine said after watching a commercial about our armed forces passing out aid packages and tinkering with satellites: "Where do I go to join the *killin'* Army?"

    The next war – the drone war – will be easier for us to start and easier for us to fight. Only the enemy will know it's still about killing people AND about winning. If they can't kill us in the field, they'll kill us at home. The drone war will end with us giving up because somebody's blown up another building and killed another 3,000 Americans. At least all our button-pushing "soldiers" will be safe, though.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ray gibbs

    Wonder of war technology–we do and should lead the world with. That war we can most definitely win. Thanksgiving the lives the helicopter will save–those the front line, those supplying. Mercury's speed. Whatever it takes for our fighting troops.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. U.S. Military Major- John Smith

    Bob just get off the computer no one wants to hear your immature comments. Do us all a favor and go look for a job, and move out of your mom's house. I know that you dont want to know what happens in the military because you are a panzy and if you ever join i will make it my pleasure to make your training a living hell.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Matt

    Next they can carry bombs

    October 21, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Grade A

    @:D Maybe your not any good at it? I have been hooked on them since I got my first one. Every single one of them flies just great. With a little practice, I've even developed some serious skills. They are by far one of the best toys of the era. I like them so much I bought a wholesale lot of over 200 to give away as gifts and sell cheap to friends. PARENTS, take note if you want an awesome toy for Christmas this year, a $30 or less Air Hog RC helicopter is it!!!

    October 21, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ET

    Some thinks that unmanned helicopter is next to impossible to do. My only response is go to college and take engineering and computer science, after 8 years of schooling you will find that there is nothing to it.

    I worked for a company that supplies engineers and scientist to the US government to design projects such as spacecraft going to Mars, Cargo scanners and nuclear material detector for homeland security. Unmanned helicopters in degree to toughness to design is 5 in a 10 point scale. An engineer need not reinvent the wheel to design this, you already have third party COTS(Off the Shelf components) such as GPS, WII, Computers, Cameras, laser sensors and helo. All the engineer needs is to integrate them together and system integration is not a tough project to accomplish. A college graduate with 2 years of training can do it with his eyes closed.

    The days of manned aircraft in combat is over, we do not need to put pilot's lives on the line anymore. Unmanned drones that fly in Afghanistan are controlled in Nevada. The Air force personnel controlling those drones have more chances of dying from getting mugged in Las Vegas strip than in the war zone.

    We already have unmanned drones next time we will have unmanned ship, unmanned tanks and unmanned everything. When this time comes mankind will never fear war anymore because killing is like playing videw games and when launching nuclear weapons becomes as simple as pressing a button, I hate to think of what will happen next.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jo ace

    So what are they doin different ummm let me see blowin up cars or blowin them selves up wow im scared now its obvious that they on sum crazy drugs n hiped up off religion n if i do recall biblical wars they dnt stop unless the opposing side is dead it looks like we gonna b n war for a long time to come i say join the army cuz you feel that u have to and do it to protect the ppl who need saving why dnt we jus send ppl who have life n prison or deathrow inmates n let them go wit guns n all that stuff n then see the outcome of that

    October 21, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Giz

      I could not understand what you were trying to say, and now my brain hurts from trying to read your post.

      October 22, 2010 at 4:37 am | Report abuse |
  11. question mark

    Wonder if this is the same unmanned technology the gov't used in the planes during 9/11 attacks? Where were the buildup stories on that? I mean it's been 50 years since the inception and leak of Operation Northwoods. MSM please advise and educate us.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aussienavyguy

      OMG, another conspiracy theory nut that thinks the US government did 9/11 and other things, wake up you idiot.
      Your government may not be perfect as is ours but they dont do things like that and kill their own people.
      Why dont you people actually join the services and see what we do, we dont just kill people either, we do a lot of good and help in disasters etc.
      And any technology that saves lives in the horror of war is good.

      October 21, 2010 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jo ace

    I say lets spend spend oh and spend some more like puff daddy said forget a recession more bombs more tanks more fighter jets n more beer lets go out now n save the world oh n low key take money n oil more money to buy chicken n more oil to fry em lets all have a world party yeah son lol na tho no joke serious ? How long before those who are gettin paid to kill off innocents n blow them selves up relize that they in a dark n hot place???

    October 21, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Giz

      Jo, do you have a brain tumor or something?

      October 22, 2010 at 4:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. Roedy Green

    The point of these drones is to allow pudgy soldiers sitting in a dark basement drinking sodas to kill children and innocent people with the same casual indifference they dispatch zombies in a video game. It is the stuff of science fiction. Disconnecting killer from victim guarantees even worse abuses than we have today. It is a compassion killer.

    If USA implements this, I will start rooting for the terrorists to destroy American. It simply wrong.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. DNSmith

    Well USArmy Major John Smith, 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 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. VLord

    I understand that using the Umanned Helos for keeping troops safe, but the idea of trying to transport material over hostile zones still indicates that ground troops will have to go in anyways to clear the area out. Relying to heavily on unmanned drones for airdrops could leave a base isolated if they are too concerned over casualties. You have to permeate the battlefield not isolate free ranging hot spots.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
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