On at least one occasion, former US Marine Corps pilot Romin Dasmalchi delivered water to soldiers in Afghanistan using a Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey – a mission that he considered both wasteful and potentially disastrous. 

“You fly 10 miles in this sleek, sexy, $100 million machine and then sit on the ground while somebody unloads it,” he tells FlightGlobal.

“Young men and women are operating loaders and heavy equipment around the aircraft and you’re just hoping there’s no accident damage that takes it off the flight schedule. It didn’t make sense. It’s like, why couldn’t you just autonomously drop [the payload] and make it a routine?”

Dasmalchi, speaking at the Heli-Expo show, is general manager of Connecticut-based aerospace company Kaman, which brought a full-sized mock-up of its autonomous Kargo aircraft to the event.

The proposed quadrotor vehicle is designed for the rapidly changing landscape of modern battlefield logistics, Dasmalchi says: “If you look at Ukraine, how are drones being used? How survivable are manned helicopters?”


Source: Kaman

Kaman is finalising the production design of its Kargo aircraft, which is intended to enter service this decade 

Partnering with Pennsylvania-based autonomous aviation developer Near Earth Autonomy to integrate a pilotless flight system into its aircraft, Kaman is designing its Kargo to be adaptable for new battlefield paradigms. 

“Some of these future operating concepts will require forces to be more distributed than they have in the past, with small teams spread across vast geographies,” Dasmalchi says. “How are we going to resupply all of these marines? How are we going to get them medical attention when they’re spread out like that? How are you going to fight that future battle with the equipment we have today?” 

“The idea is that you start this thing up at the push of a button and it deploys itself to the forward area,” he continues. “The soldiers or sailors upload whatever they need to get out to their teams, and then these things fly around and do deliveries at night, and in bad weather.”

While the market for small delivery drones is saturated with “literally thousands” of products, Kaman’s market research concludes that there is not as much competition in the “medium-range, medium-lift” category of uncrewed aircraft.

Kaman is targeting a maximum payload of roughly 360kg (800lb) and a range of 500nm (925km), with a cruise speed of around 120kt (220km/h). The aircraft features a composite shell and an aluminium airframe. 

In the interest of easy transportation, the Kargo aircraft’s rotor blades can be folded and it is sized to fit inside a standard shipping container.

Kaman has assembled three pre-production prototypes powered by Rolls-Royce M300 turbine engines, and it is close to finalising the design for its production aircraft. It opted for a combustion-based propulsion system after considering emerging hybrid-electric technologies.

“We needed something that has legs,” Dasmalchi says. “This is why we chose not to go with a hybrid-electric powerplant. We need reliable, repeatable, trustworthy equipment.”

The company is still eyeing hybrid-electric technology for potential future variants of its Kargo aircraft. For now, it is focused on developing a “gritty” aircraft that will be ready for operations sooner rather than later. 

It intends to clear certification and start delivering Kargo aircraft before the end of the decade.

Publicly traded Kaman is in the process of being acquired by private equity firm Arcline Investment Management through a deal valued at $1.8 billion. Dasmalchi says the company is “excited” about the acqusition but declines to comment further. 


Source: Kaman

Kaman is targeting a “sweet spot” of transporting payloads of about 275kg on flights of roughly 120nm