US Army Awards Near Earth Autonomy, Kaman Air Vehicles Contract to Demonstrate Heavy Lift VTOL Capability

Multi-Functional UAS will Address Modern Combat Needs and Resupply Challenges

Defence Industry

Pittsburgh, PA: Near Earth Autonomy (Near Earth) and Kaman Air Vehicles, a division of Kaman Corporation (NYSE: KAMN), announced October 4 that they have been awarded a contract by the US Army to demonstrate a resupply uncrewed aerial system (UAS) capable of moving loads with a minimum of 800 pounds and flying distances over 100 miles.

This heavy-lift vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) UAS will take Soldiers out of harm’s way and supplement resupply trips through added uncrewed lift capacity. Today, the Army depends on smaller drones and heavier crewed aircraft for resupply missions. 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 modernisation 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 US 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.

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

“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,” said Sanjiv Singh, CEO at Near Earth Autonomy.

Romin Dasmalchi, General Manager for the Kaman KARGO UAV business, stated, “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.”

In 2022, 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. The partners will demonstrate the KARGO UAV’s capabilities at Project Convergence 2024, displaying applications ranging from cargo resupply to reconnaissance.

Near Earth’s technology allows aircraft to autonomously take off, fly, and land safely, with or without GPS. Their solutions enable aerial mobility applications for partners in the commercial and defence sectors. Near Earth bridges the gap between aerospace and robotics with complete systems that improve efficiency, performance, and safety for aircraft ranging from small drones to full-size helicopters. Their work won the 2022 Pittsburgh Technology Council AI/ML/Robotics – Innovator of the Year Award, the 2018 Howard Hughes Award recognising outstanding improvements in fundamental helicopter technology, and was a 2017 finalist for the Collier Trophy, one of the top aviation awards in the world.

Kaman Corporation, founded in 1945 by aviation pioneer Charles H. Kaman and headquartered in Bloomfield, Connecticut, conducts business in the aerospace & defence, industrial, and medical markets. Kaman produces and markets proprietary aircraft bearings and components; super precision, miniature ball bearings; proprietary spring energized seals, springs, and contacts; wheels, brakes and related hydraulic components for helicopters, fixed-wing and UAV aircraft; complex metallic and composite aerostructures for commercial, military and general aviation fixed and rotary wing aircraft; safe and arming solutions for missile and bomb systems for the US and allied militaries; subcontract helicopter work; restoration, modification and support of our SH-2G Super Sea sprite maritime helicopters; and support of our heavy lift K-MAX® manned helicopter and development of the KARGO UAV unmanned aerial system, a purpose-built autonomous medium lift logistics vehicle.