Kaman Aerospace revealed at the show that it is to carry out follow- on demonstrations of its Burro unmanned air logistics variant (UALV) of the K-Max helicopter for the US Army under a new contract that will see five weeks of flying operations later this year.

The $3.1 million award also covers additional development work by Kaman on the Burro - or broad area unmanned responsive supply operations - helicopter's flight control actuators and autonomous avionics suite.

The five-week flying programme will be carried out as part of the US Army's advanced expeditionary force (AAEF) exercises at Fort Benning, Georgia, with the bulk of flying to take place in November. However, work-up training for the demonstration will start in September.

Changes to the flight-control and avionics software are intended to allow more dynamic UALV retasking, says Kaman, and will also allow for the removal of the on-board safety pilot used in previous demonstrations. However, full implementation is not expected to be completed until the AAEF exercises are finished, meaning that a pilot will remain on board for the duration of those sorties.

In parallel, Kaman has revealed it is considering investing in the development of new-generation ground obstacle avoidance systems to improve Burro's near-to-ground handling. The unmanned logistics mission necessitates a "more autonomous version of approach and departure", the company says, "and we are interested in raising the bar in that area".

The new capabilities would also allow for operations in brown-out conditions similar to those experienced by manned military helicopter crews in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and allow for the detection of emergent obstacles in landing areas, such as moving vehicles.

Kaman says that it is also interested in fitting Burro with an autonomous sense and avoid capability, but is awaiting wider UAV industry developments in this area rather than planning to pursue its own technical solutions.

Source: Flight International