Feeds

Robocopter combat cargo skyhook chosen by US forces

Meatsack stickjockeys no longer required

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

A US military competition aimed at finding a robotic unmanned helicopter able to haul supplies to isolated bases in Afghanistan has a winner, according to reports.

The unmanned cargo version of the Kaman K-Max helicopter. Credit: Lockheed

OK, flyboy, you go and have your mandatory aircrew sleep time - you've slept yourself right out of a job

The US Marines' "Immediate Cargo Unmanned Aerial System" compo has now been subsumed into an Army-run effort known as Autonomous Technologies for Unmanned Air Systems (ATUAS), and Aviation Week notes that a contract has been awarded to Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed's offering for the unmanned robocopter contest was an automated version of the existing Kaman K-MAX intermeshing-rotors manned aircraft, and it appears that this will now be developed into the US forces' first robot cargo skyhook.

The ATUAS K-MAX, in trials earlier this year, has shown that it can shift 3,000lb of cargo across 150 nautical miles in two flights within six hours - all without any input from ground operators other than specifying the destination and route. The machine is expected to offer the same performance, delivering cargo to a point within 10 metres of the target coordinates, even in weather which would ground a normal manned chopper. The K-MAX team has also shown off a nifty "four-hook carousel", which lets the droidcopter make multiple dropoffs in a single flight.

The only serious rival to the K-MAX was the A160T robocopter offered by Boeing: but this gave a less-impressive lifting performance in trials, and also lacks the option for manned piloting, which could prove useful for legal reasons in civilian-controlled airspace.

The ATUAS capability really could be good news in Afghanistan, where supplies need to go by helicopter as much as possible, and sometimes have to be rushed in urgently to forward bases which are under fire at the time. The need to keep air crews within their allowed operating hours, and the need to lift them and their associated things - armour protection for instance - makes manned helicopters very expensive and eats into their lifting ability. Furthermore manned cargo helicopters must normally be escorted by Apache attack choppers, a thing which would presumably be unnecessary with ATUAS.

Av Week reports that ATUAS may now reach the field at some point after 2011: the original plan by the Marines called for it to be in Afghanistan by the end of this year. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.