Near Earth Autonomy has partnered with Kaman Aerospace to develop an intelligent autonomy system for the K-MAX cargo transport helicopter, a platform that is capable of lifting a payload of 6,000 pounds. This new technology, developed with support from Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), will also be applicable to other large commercial and military VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft.
Near Earth previously worked with the Office of Naval Research to develop an autonomy test suite of sensors and software for a full-scale helicopter under the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System (AACUS) project. The technology developed under this project has continued to be implemented on small and medium-sized vehicles, under the Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) military program. This new work on large-sized transport aircraft such as the K-MAX builds on the past expertise developed during these previous projects, demonstrating that one architecture can work well across a wide range of different aircraft types and sizes.
The autonomous K-MAX uses onboard sensors and processing to gather data about its surrounding environment and make real-time flight decisions such as obstacle avoidance and selecting safe, suitable locations for dropping cargo or landing. Applications for this safe autonomous aerial logistics technology include the efficient movement of military supplies, patients, and troops, as well as commercial cargo delivery and urban air mobility.
Sanjiv Singh, CEO of Near Earth, commented: “Our past efforts laid a strong foundation for solving complex autonomy challenges for small, medium, and large vehicles. Thanks to our dedicated team, partners, and sponsors, we are moving from the art of the possible to the art of the practical and in specific, to making autonomous flight safe, efficient, and robust enough for daily operation. This program will serve as an important milestone in making autonomous logistics a reality.”
Watch a video demonstrating the autonomy of the K-MAX helicopter below: