U.S. Army Awards Heavy Lift VTOL Demonstration Contract

Near Earth Autonomy’s VTOL UAS will take soldiers out of harm’s way and supplement resupply trips through added uncrewed lift capacity, reducing the risk for Army aircrews By Abi Wylie / 12 Oct 2023
U.S. Army Awards Heavy Lift VTOL Demonstration Contract
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Near Earth Autonomy and Kaman Air Vehicles have been contracted by the U.S. Army to demonstrate a resupply unmanned aerial system (UAS).

This heavy-lift vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) UAS is capable of moving loads with a minimum of 800 pounds and flying distances over 100 miles, and will take soldiers out of harm’s way.

It will also supplement resupply trips through added uncrewed lift capacity, for which the Army usually depends on smaller drones and heavier crewed aircraft. This practice significantly heightens the risk for Army aircrews, especially when operating in hostile regions. 

The Army’s heavy-lift Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) UAS program requirements match Near Earth’s expertise in autonomous flight technology and Kaman’s proven rotorcraft and uncrewed solutions capabilities. 

The joint effort aligns with Near Earth and Kaman’s shared commitment to advancing the capabilities of military UAS and the ongoing modernization of military logistics operations.

Near Earth is the prime contractor and is responsible for the autonomy system which will provide mission assurance through responsive autonomy, enabling soldiers to focus on their primary mission rather than on controlling the UAS. 

The autonomy features include navigation, obstacle detection, and manual override systems. Essential components are designed to fail safely and function even if other parts of the system malfunction.

The UAS will be based on Kaman’s KARGO UAV, a purpose-built autonomous Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) aircraft that will meet the needs of the Army in both lift capacity and endurance while ensuring mission success even in contested environments.

Built with the U.S. Armed Forces future operating concepts in mind, the KARGO UAV offers a rugged design for easy transport and is capable of carrying up to 800 pounds of payload. Images and further details of the KARGO UAV can be found on Kaman’s website.

The UAS is designed for different missions by utilizing a common attachment system that will streamline configuration. This modularity supports Resupply/Contested Logistics, ISR, Electronic Warfare (EW), Communications Relay (CR), and Search and Rescue (SAR).

The United States Marine Corps (USMC) selected the KARGO UAV for the Medium Unmanned Logistics Systems – Air (MULS-A) program managed by Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) PMA-263. The Army’s partnership enables further development for broader use, including scaling the original KARGO UAV design for larger payloads. 

Sanjiv Singh, CEO at Near Earth Autonomy, said; “The HVTOL UAS program partnership with Kaman enables us to broaden our current scope from developing an aerial resupply aircraft for the Marine Corps to creating an autonomous multi-mission aircraft that can autonomously address a wide variety of critical needs.”

Romin Dasmalchi, General Manager for the Kaman KARGO UAV business, added; “Between Near Earth’s expertise in aerial autonomy and Kaman’s background in uncrewed logistics and rotorcraft manufacturing, we have the synergistic skills needed to develop a single aerial system that serves many different applications.”

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