Unmanned air and ground technologies will be paired in combined autonomous trials involving Lockheed Martin and the US Army.
In these, the US aerospace/defence firm's K-MAX unmanned helicopter and SMSS (Squad Mission Support System) will work together in the RSTA (reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition) role. According to officials, it's a first-time pairing that could expand the future battlefield roles of unmanned systems.
Two years ago, a Squad Mission Support System fitted with a multi-camera Gyrocam network carried out remotely-operated reconnaissance over a 200+ mile control radius. The new trials will build on this work, integrating the unmanned helicopter.
K-MAX And SMSS Trials
"This level of mission cooperation between unmanned air and ground vehicles of this size, controlled beyond line-of-sight, is an industry first", said Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control's Joe Zinecker, in the firm's K-MAX UAS /SMSS UGV trials press release. "This demonstration could lead to expanded missions, such as remote sensing and monitoring of suspected chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive threats or events."
The K-MAX UAS was developed by Lockheed Martin and Kaman Aerospace Corporation. Tasked with resupplying deployed US warfighters with battlefield cargo, it can transport payloads weighing up to 6,000 pounds. The Squad Mission Support System previously achieved another unmanned systems first, working alongside deployed US forces in Afghanistan.
Unmanned Air And Ground Systems
The unmanned air and ground systems trial will be carried out in coming months. As it unfolds, the K-MAX will carry an SMSS as an underslung load and position it in a simulated frontline environment. With the SMSS surveying the area, the K-MAX will fly back to its base.
'In this new scenario, the reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition sensor onboard the SMSS will be used to locate, observe and obtain coordinates of targets and other objects of interest', Lockheed Martin explains. 'The coordinates and sensor imagery will be passed back through a satellite communications system to a remote operations center hundreds of miles away for analysis.'