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The U.S. Marines are looking for unmanned supply helicopters that can deliver ten tons of supplies across distances of 150 miles in 24 hours; they also have to be able to hover at high altitudes (say, up in the Hindu Kush mountains)
Page notes that there are, in fact, a few robot air vehicles out there potentially able to tackle such tasks. The Fire Scout droid kill-chopper, the A160T Hummingbird unmanned whisper-copter, and the MMIST SnowGoose robo motor'chute all came forward, as did an unmanned version of the Kaman K-MAX intermeshing-rotor whirlybird.
We now know that the Fire Scout is out, as is the SnowGoose. The latter, while it has already been used for Afghan resupply by U.S. special forces, was perhaps always on a hiding to nothing. It is Canadian, not U.S., made, and it fails to meet the strict letter of the requirement as it ca not hover. Makers MMIST had spoken of modifying the existing parawing, perhaps to gyrocopter configuration -- and will no doubt have pointed out that the SnowGoose can lift off without trouble from a moving Humvee or ship -- but evidently this did not convince the Marines.
With the Fire Scout also out of the running for undisclosed reasons, that leaves the A160T and K-MAX -- perhaps coincidentally the offerings from the two biggest U.S. defense firms, Boeing and Lockheed.
The A160T is said to offer exceptional high-altitude performance, deriving from its cunning variable-speed rotor tech. It is also touted for its quietness, though this isn't a requirement in this context.
The K-MAX, already in widespread service as a manned chopper and lately touted in a robotized version by Lockheed, is also noted for its lifting ability. Its two intermeshing rotors avoid the need for a tail prop, channeling all its power into lift and letting it carry more than its own weight. The intermesh approach with two adjacent rotor hubs is said by its designers to be simpler than coaxial twin rotors as seen on some Russian machines and the Sikorsky X3 high-speed prototype.
Pages says that the Marines have now given Boeing $500,000 and Lockheed $860,000 further to demonstrate their robo-lifters, with a February deadline. The winning aircraft -- assuming one or both actually shows it is ready for combat -- will immediately be purchased in some numbers and sent to Afghanistan, where the Marines are now heavily engaged in the war-torn south alongside British and some other allied troops.