Lockheed Martin Corporation and Kaman Aerospace Corporation have worked together to transform the Kaman K-MAX ® power lift helicopter into an unmanned aerial system (UAS) capable of autonomous or remote-controlled operations.
The K-MAX unique double rotor system features two rotors that cross each other, called intermeshing rotors, which make the aircraft lighter and less expensive to maintain. Flaps, similar to those on a plane wing, are integrated into each rotor, giving the Kaman K-MAX ® more control than a conventional helicopter and making the aircraft the world’s first helicopter designed and certified for external lift operations.
The Kaman K-MAX with its intermeshing rotors, which eliminate the need for a tail rotor, give the Kaman K-MAX ® a natural capacity to hover, enhancing its stability. The K-MAX can be used for precision lifting and placing by firefighters, construction firms, and the military, among others.
Whether fighting fires, transporting supplies to the military, supporting humanitarian aid efforts, or working with construction companies, the unmanned Kaman K-MAX ® has unparalleled lift capability even in the harshest conditions. An invaluable ally in the mountainous Alps or the Persian Gulf, the K-MAX can lift and deliver up to 6,000 lbs. of cargo at sea level and over 4,000 lbs. at a 15,000-foot density altitude.
According to Kaman Aerospace Corporation, “The trolley system allows the cargo hook to move back and forth across the belly of the aircraft, enhancing load stability. The curved track in which the cargo hook rides is part of the heavily reinforced structure that delivers repeated and reliable lifting.”
Also using a Bambi Bucket® to carry water, the Kaman K-MAX ® can refill the bucket at smaller water sources closer to the fire, enabling the aircraft to unload more water on a fire in less time. In the military, the Unmanned Kaman K-MAX ® can save lives by minimizing the need for ground convoys. Also, the aircraft can easily access remote locations or areas hit by natural disasters to deliver equipment and supplies to those cut off from the rest of the population.
After being out of production for over a decade, in June 2015, Kaman announced it was starting up production of the Kaman K-MAX ® again due to increased commercial orders. The first flight of the new Kaman K-MAX ® took place in May 2017 with the first new-build delivered in July 2017 for firefighting in China.