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. Bremen3011

    "To the right! To the right!" *BOOM* "Aw I hit a village man, my joystick sucks, lemme try yours". – Jim Breuer Harcore
    That above pretty much sums this idea up in a nut shell.

    October 22, 2010 at 3:48 am | Report abuse |
  2. rob

    Im still laughing about the cats n dogs comment.......priceless!

    October 22, 2010 at 4:24 am | Report abuse |
  3. Prince

    When will this war of a thing will stop? I think is better that the world will stop anything war and face peace for GOD's sake.

    October 22, 2010 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
  4. Bob

    The Taliban will have a lot of fun shooting these things down

    October 22, 2010 at 7:59 am | Report abuse |
  5. bailoutsos

    "planned for the last quarter of 2011" -- So, America is planning on still being in Afghanistan past the 3rd quarter of 2011?

    October 22, 2010 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  6. joe shmo

    you guys are stupid some chinese kid prob. already hacked it

    October 22, 2010 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  7. Craig

    Just in case anyone is interested... The Navy had a similar program operational in the early 60's. It was called the DASH program (Drone Anti Submarine Helicopter) and used a remotely controlled helicopter operating from a small flight deck on a destroyer (or similar vessal). During ASW operations it would carry a torpedo out to a target submarine's location and then dropped. The torpedo was designed to then search within a fixed area for a target for a fixed period of time.

    I understand that the program was dropped due to major control isses with the copter – obviously the technology has improved greatly since then. The old flight decks are still visible on the few remaining Gearing Class FRAM destoyers still in service around the world.

    October 22, 2010 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
    • T-Navy

      My destroyer never lost a bird either in training or in anti-submarine exercises. The founder of Gyrodyne corporation. (st, James, Long Island, NY) passed away a few years ago. The St. James site is now a catering hall: Flower Fields.

      October 22, 2010 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  8. poo poo

    to the left, to the left, BOOM aw damn it

    October 22, 2010 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
  9. boom

    who gives a damn

    October 22, 2010 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  10. mom

    jeff ridel is gay

    October 22, 2010 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  11. bailoutsos

    Wouldn't it be better to just bring the troops home?

    October 22, 2010 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  12. bailoutsos

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

    October 22, 2010 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  13. Ajames

    What do roadside bombs and IEDs have to do with a remote controlled helicopter? Mr. Spoor said “It keeps our Marines readily resupplied and out of harm’s way” If they are out of harms way why can't they use a real pilot? This sounds like a waste of money. An armed, piloted helo would be safer and cheaper then lossing an unarmed multibilion dollar copter. The war machine needs stopped.

    October 22, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. azezel

    They are going about this bass wackwards. It sends the wrong message to the population. Destroys its productive ethic. Not to mention doesn't take care of the insurgency. The best thing to do would be to put up more sats and drones to watch the roads and respond whenever something is planted. Or better yet monitor to get into the opposition's networks via various means to undermine and then disrupt them. Like what is done in the united states. Then again I am operating under the false assumption that this is about securing and developing a nation and maintaining a population of productive people to support these structures....

    October 22, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jack h

    soon most military aircraft will be unmanned. any aircraft that is unmanned can be built much cheaper and there is only loss of life for our enemies. imagine unmanned air force fighter jets dogfighting against planes manned by our enemy? the manned aircraft woud not have a chance since pilots blackout at around 8 g's. pilotless aircraft are only limtied by structural integrety which is more than 20 g's. unmanned attack helicopter will really pu the fear of god into the hearts of any enemy. radio and computer control is far more advanced than most people realize. most aircraft civilian and military depend on computers to fly. the space shuttle would be impossible to fly esp land without computer control

    October 22, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sharp

      It gets even better. Your pilots get more & more experience & only chewed out if they lose a plane or helicopter. The old time pilots go down with their ship. Pretty soon your guys are REAL REAL good & their guys are all dead. All those shooter type video games are going to pay off in combination with this BIG TIME.

      October 23, 2010 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
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