Kaman developing next generation of optionally-manned K-MAX

By Patrick C. Miller | March 12, 2019

Kaman Aerospace Group headquartered in Bloomfield, Connecticut, is developing a new generation of its K-MAX helicopter that gives operators the ability to fly either manned or unmanned missions.

Kaman said it expects to offer unmanned system kits for new and existing K-MAX aircraft in 2020. The company is also exploring opportunities to support the U.S. Marine Corps in developing co-use versions of autonomous aerial technologies for both commercial and military applications.

“Whether the need is night-time aerial firefighting, resupplying troops in austere environments or delivering critical supplies in support of humanitarian missions, the next generation of the unmanned K-MAX will continue to demonstrate its unmatched readiness and efficiency, no matter the requirement,” said Roger Wassmuth, senior director of Kaman’s business development, air vehicles and maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) division.

The unmanned K-MAX has provided combat support to reduce the risks faced by U.S. service men and women overseas. It supported the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan for 33 months, flying combat resupply and logistical support missions that moved more than 1.5 million pounds of cargo to remote outposts. Typically operating at night, the K-MAX unmanned missions replaced the equivalent of 900 convoy vehicles and eliminated 46,000 hours of exposure time to IED’s, direct fire and other threats.

K-MAX development was led by Kaman founder and former CEO Charles Kaman, who’s also considered an aviation pioneer. The K-MAX received Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification in 1994.

The single-engine, single-seat K-MAX was designed to be a rugged low-maintenance aircraft featuring a counter-rotating rotor system. It’s optimized for external load operations and designed specifically for vertical reference flight. The aircraft can lift up to 6,000 pounds.

“We are excited to take the next step in advancing co-use unmanned capabilities for commercial operators while, at the same time, building on our history in supporting the U.S. military,” said Darlene Smith, vice president and general manager of Kaman’s VP air vehicles and MRO division.