The US Marine Corps (USMC) has contracted with a California start-up company to procure a new solar-powered air vehicle.

Kraus Hamdani Aerospace (KHA) on 3 April announced it has secured a contract to provide the USMC with the company’s K1000ULE uncrewed air vehicle.

Under the initial contract, KHA will provide the three K1000ULEs for the USMC’s Small Unit Remote Scouting System programme. The company says its offering was downselected after a comprehensive evaluation process.

The US Naval Air Systems Command, which oversees aircraft procurement for the marine corps, said in 2022 it was hosting demonstrations by “more than a dozen” manufacturers of uncrewed vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) craft to help inform the service’s procurement of new small UAV solutions.

The K1000 is a high-altitude, ultra-long-endurance platform built around an all-electric propulsion system, including onboard solar panels. KHA says the type can stay continuously airborne for 24h and has been operationally tested up to 20,000ft.

K1000 flight

Source: Kraus Hamdani Aerospace

Kraus Hamdani Aerospace will provide three K1000ULEs for the USMC’s Small Unit Remote Scouting System programme

In 2023, the company claimed a K1000 completed a 75h 53m continuous flight, remaining aloft for more than three straight days. UAVs with such ultra-long endurance are sometimes classified as “pseudo satellites”, offering the ability to provide persistent surveillance and signal re-transmission services.

KHA has pitched the VTOL-capable, fully-autonomous K1000ULE as modular system that can be configured for a range of missions, including reconnaissance, signal jamming, communication re-transmission and signals intelligence collection.

In 2022, the company demonstrated the K1000 with the US Army at that service’s Project Convergence event.

Speaking to FlightGlobal at the time, KHA co-founder Stefan Kraus said multiple K1000s can be teamed to ensure uninterrupted communications across a large area.

“The aircraft repositions itself based on the area I’m trying to cover, with multiple airborne assets simultaneously, without any human interaction,” Kraus said.

He noted operators can control a K1000 cluster from anywhere in the world. A single operator can control multiple aircraft from a small tablet, although each K1000 handles the actual flying autonomously.