New unmanned helicopter can cut US troop losses in war zones

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London, August 28 (ANI): An unmanned helicopter that is expected to reduce US troop losses in war zones is being developed.

The Kaman K-MAX helicopter has been adapted by defence company Lockheed Martin to fly without a pilot and can carry up to 6,000lbs of cargo - more than the aircraft's empty weight, reports the BBC.

Transporting equipment to troops at Forward Operating Bases on the frontline would be the K-MAX's primary use.

It would help reduce the need for large vehicle convoys lowering the risk of soldiers being ambushed or injured by IEDs (improvised explosive devices).

And it can be flown into under-fire areas without risk to aircrew.

A ground-based operator using a laptop is able to control the aircraft. They can input a flight plan detailing the destination and route.

It can also be flown hands-on from the cockpit if necessary and uses counter-rotating intermeshing rotor blades to generate its lifting power.

The adapted K-MAX can winch four different loads on its cargo hook and each can be programmed to release at different times. Its maximum airspeed with an external load is 80 knots (92mph).

It can also fly in weather conditions that would ground other helicopters and could also be used to lighten the workload of aircrew ensuring they get enough rest.

The helicopter is being developed for the US Army's 'Autonomous Technologies for Unmanned Air Systems' (ATUAS) programme.

However the US Marine Corps could make use of the aircraft.

In Lockheed Martin's contract to develop the helicopter the US military describes the project as having an "indefinite delivery" of an "indefinite quantity", so a precise deployment date is currently unknown.

But if testing goes to plan it's thought it could be sent to Afghanistan for assessment sometime towards the end of 2011. (ANI)

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