ROBOTICS AND AUTONOMOUS SYSTEMS
Lockheed Tests Casualty Evacuation Mission with K-MAX Drone (UPDATED)
During the demonstration — which took place in Bloomfield, Connecticut, March 26 — a medic was able to use a tablet to control a K-MAX UAV and an UxInterceptor unmanned ground vehicle, which is based on a John Deere R-Gator, to rescue a mannequin serving as a wounded serviceman.
A Neya employee acting in the role of a medic launched the UGV, which then went through an obstacle course before finding the soldier. Using the electro-optic camera on board, he evaluated the casualty.
“Once he went through and did his evaluation, he then determined that he needed to have a casualty evacuation and decided to call in the unmanned K-MAX to do that,” said Jon McMillen, business development lead for the unmanned cargo vehicle.
Using the tablet, which included an unmanned aerial system control segment architecture, the medic was able to switch mission sets from the UGV to the K-MAX, McMillen said during an April 29 telephone briefing with reporters.
The operator was able to “nudge” the helicopter left or right and then have it automatically land, he said. Once on ground, the mannequin was strapped to a seat aboard the K-MAX and then flown to a safe area.
“It essentially … [stimulated] an end-to-end robotic mission, how ground vehicles and air vehicles could be used collaboratively to conduct a mission that hasn’t been done today on unmanned vehicles,” McMillen said.
K-MAX — which is manufactured by Kaman Aerospace and includes an advanced mission suite built by Lockheed — rose to prominence carrying millions of pounds of cargo for the Marine Corps in Afghanistan over three years. Neya Systems was the prime contractor for the demonstration.
While the mission was unmanned, a safety pilot was onboard the UAV, in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration rules, said a Lockheed spokeswoman.
Using new platforms for new missions will continue to be a trend for unmanned aerial vehicles, said Jay McConville, director of business development for unmanned integrated solutions at Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training.
“We have seen a lot of new use cases coming out,” he said. That “is expanding our view of how we can use unmanned aircraft to do a lot of different things, and not just individually, but together, collaboratively, different systems operating in the same environment to achieve a united end.”
That drives integration and interoperability. “We’re putting a lot of emphasis on that,” he said.
These new missions will continue to proliferate. For example, earlier this year Lockheed’s Indago quadcopter was used in firefighting missions in Western Australia. Using its electro-optic/infrared camera, it was able to spot fires and saved up to 100 homes, McConville said.
Additionally, the K-MAX could be used in disaster relief situations and drop cargo.
On the defense side, military customers are demanding systems that work in expeditionary environments, he said.
In such situations, systems must have strong endurance capabilities and separate themselves from airfields, he said.
Lockheed’s phone conference came just days before the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s annual conference opens next week. The show will bring nearly 600 exhibitors and 8,000 attendees to the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta to view some of the latest unmanned technologies.
Correction: A previous version of this article did not include the name of the unmanned ground vehicle used in the demonstration. Additionally, its camera was not gimbaled. The prime contractor was Neya Systems. A Neya employee role played as a medic for the demonstration.
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Photo: K-MAX performs a casualty evacuation mission (Lockheed Martin)