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Aero-TV: Kaman Corp Readying to Test Multi-Role Cargo UAV

K-MAX Maker, Beyond the Wonder Drone

Founded in 1945 by aerospace-engineer and guitarist Charles Kaman, the Kaman Corporation is an American manufacturer of world-renowned helicopters. In addition to gifting humankind with a number of iconic aircraft, Charles Kaman—by dint of experience gained through his company’s use of composite materials—created the famed, round-back, composite-bodied Ovation guitar.

The Kaman Corporation is best known for its K-MAX helicopter—a unique, heavy-lift machine featuring a distinctive, intermeshing main-rotor (synchropter) architecture. Designed and built for external cargo-carrying operations, the K-MAX is capable of hauling aloft payloads in excess of three tons—a remarkable feat for a single-engine rotorcraft with an empty weight of 5,145-pounds.

In October 2022, Kaman was selected by the U.S. Department of Defense to produce an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) prototype for the United States Marine Corps. The proposed aircraft was to derive of Kaman’s KARGO Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), a purpose-built, autonomous, medium-lift logistics vehicle conceived of and built to operate in austere environments and carry payloads as heavy as eight-hundred pounds.

In the autumn of 2021, Kaman flew a scaled demonstrator of its KARGO UAV. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Near Earth Autonomy was selected to provide the hardware and software solutions by which the vehicle would be rendered autonomous.

Built with the Marines’ near-future operating concept in mind, Kaman’s KARGO UAV features a robust design optimized for expeditionary deployments. The aircraft, by virtue of its compact form, fits in a standard CONEX shipping container and can be unloaded from such and operated by as few as two Marines.

Kaman chairman, president, and CEO Ian Walsh set forth his company’s new UAV will deftly balance range and payload capacity, thereby permitting the Marine Corps to move “beans, bullets, and Band-Aids,” or even potable water, fuel, and spare parts, to small units in remote locations.

Upon taking command of the service in 2019, General David Berger, sitting Commandant of the Marine Corps, outlined his vision for future USMC operations, stating in part: “We must re-imagine our amphibious ship capabilities, prepositioning, and expeditionary logistics so they are more survivable, at less risk of catastrophic loss, and agile in their employment.”

In the years since, General Berger has embarked upon the Force Design 2030 effort, a shift in ethos and praxis intended to reshape the USMC into a more agile fighting force better suited to small-unit distributed operations. Berger and the balance of USMC brass have conceded, however, that their plans want for an acceptable means by which to resupply forward units.

By way of example, Marines fighting from small expeditionary bases throughout the South China Sea could be resupplied by Kaman KARGO UAVs prepositioned in Okinawa, Japan. As required, subject UAVs would be rapidly assembled by Marine Corps personnel, then deployed to rendezvous with Military Sealift Command supply ships outside the South China Sea. Landing thereupon, the UAVs would be loaded with supplies drawn from the ships’ stores and dispatched to deliver such to Marine units afield.

Currently, Kaman is working to secure requisite FAA certification in advance of flight-testing of a full-scale iteration of its KARGO UAV.

Aero-TV is a production of the Internationally syndicated Aero-News Network. Seen worldwide by hundreds of thousands of aviators and aviation adherents, ANN's Aero-TV has produced over 5000 aviation and feature programs, including nearly 2000 episodes of our daily aviation news program, AIRBORNE UNLIMITED, currently hosted by Holland Lee. Now in its third decade of operation, parent company Aero-News Network, has the most aggressive and intensive editorial profile of any aviation news organization and has published nearly a half-million news and feature stories since its inception -- having pioneered the online 24/7 aviation new-media model that so many have emulated.

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