Created the first commercial helicopter-tractor that does not need a pilot

For nearly a decade, the K-Max cross-rotor unmanned cargo missions for US forces in Afghanistan. The new model – K-Max Titan – is the world’s first heavy unmanned helicopter for the commercial market.

Kaman Air Vehicles, a division of Kaman Aerospace Corporation, today announced the maiden flight of its new K-MAX TITAN ™ unmanned helicopter. The world’s first heavy-duty unmanned helicopter for the commercial market, the drone leads the way in repetitive, heavy climbs without the constraints of human-assisted operations. The patented K-MAX TITAN™ system is focused on safety and operational efficiency.

In general, the K-Max is a heavy tractor in the sky. He began his “career” in 1994 as a logging helicopter capable of carrying 2,722 kg of cargo at the end of the cable and the load hook. Its peculiarity is in design. Instead of a tail rotor, it has two large upper rotors. Each of them counteracts each other’s torque. The small cockpit accommodates one person and is designed for maximum automation, so the pilot can always keep his hands and feet on the control panel.

Crew requirements are minimal – one pilot, one mechanic. At the same time, with the installed Titan system from Kaman, even a person is not needed to control the helicopter. Unmanned operations will save pilots from danger in difficult conditions – during extinguishing fires, military missions, or bad weather.

The Kaman system has already been well tested – more than a thousand unmanned missions have been carried out during the hostilities. In the future, all K-Max will become fully autonomous with a self-driving kit based on sensors from Near Earth Autonom. Testing on this platform is expected to begin in the next couple of months.

The Titan system will be available as a retrofit for existing K-Max choppers or as an option for newer ones. Such machines will eventually be replaced by heavy, autonomous electric drones. But it will be a long time before the zero-emission multicopter equals the K-Max’s 1,850km range.

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Alexandr Ivanov earned his Licentiate Engineer in Systems and Computer Engineering from the Free International University of Moldova. Since 2013, Alexandr has been working as a freelance web programmer.
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Alexandr Ivanov

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