Large scale VTOL aircraft have very different capabilities than large drones: they can carry up to 6,000 pounds of cargo. On the military field, that cargo may include Warfighters and military supplies: in the commercial arena, that could mean urban air mobility (UAM) or heavy cargo delivery. Automated aerial vehicles (AAV) don’t generally have that size or heft: but autonomous systems can perform missions on demand and without putting human pilots in harms way. A new vehicle may be on the horizon: helicopter drones combine the advantages of autonomy with the uses of a large scale VTOL.
With support from Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), Near Earth Autonomy has partnered with Kaman Aerospace to develop an intelligent autonomy system for the K-MAX helicopter, a large-scale transport aircraft.
Near Earth’s technology allows aircraft like helicopter drones to autonomously take-off, fly, and land safely, with or without GPS. Using sensors and computing onboard, the aircraft can sense its environment to make real-time flight decisions such as deciding to fly around objects in the flight path and selecting clear places to land or to drop off cargo,” says a Near Earth Autonomy press release.