With a skilled pilot at the controls, a helicopter can easily pick up cargo while hovering in the air. It's a time-saving manoeuvre that the Marine Corps' K-MAX autonomous helicopter has just learnt to perform itself.
The military has been testing the K-MAX for just over half a year now, and with 450,000kg of hauled cargo under its belt, so far it's been a great success. But every time a new load needs to be hooked up, the K-MAX has to first land, which costs both precious time and fuel. Not any more. Last week, the robot helicopter performed its first 'hot hookup', where it stayed hovering in the air while cargo was connected to its lift cable.
When it eventually perfects the manoeuvre, future cargo pickups and drop-offs will take the K-MAX considerably less time to perform and will even require less manpower, which is the ultimate goal of developing a robotic cargo transport. Eventually, the military hopes that drop-offs will be as easy for troops as placing an order from a tablet and waiting for the deliveryman — err, deliverybot — to arrive. No tip required. [Innovation News Daily]
Image: Regional Command Southwest/US Marine Corps