Expanding World of Unmanned Air

Naval Air Systems Command plans to issue a draft solicitation this month and select one or more contractors to “fulfill the immediate” requirement for an unmanned cargo aircraft for the Marine Corps, according to a notice posted last month on Federal Business Opportunities. In August 2009, the Marine Corps contracted with Boeing to demonstrate its A160T Hummingbird unmanned helicopter and with the Kaman-Lockheed Martin team for its K-MAX unmanned helicopter for movement of about 20,000 pounds of supplies (food, ammunition, fuel, etc.) within a 24-hour period, operating at high altitude and within roughly 150 nautical miles (round trip) to deliver directly to ground troops in remote locations. The Air Force also is exploring unmanned cargo aircraft for direct point-of-need support, but it’s shooting for one that could operate within 500 nautical miles and eyes demonstrations not before 2011.