Lockheed Martin says it has demonstrated its ability to integrate unmanned aircraft system (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS) by using its prototype UAS Traffic Management (UTM) capabilities.
During a demonstration on Nov. 18, the Stalker XE UAS provided data and a precise geo-location to the unmanned K-MAX cargo helicopter, which dropped water to extinguish a fire, while the UTM tracked the UAS operations and communicated with air traffic control in real time.
“This demonstration represents the path forward for flying UAS in the NAS using flight service-based UTM capabilities to extend the technology and systems that air traffic controllers know and understand,” explains Paul Engola, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of transportation and financial solutions. “We were able to successfully modify the existing K-MAX and Stalker XE ground control software to connect to the UTM services and conduct the firefighting mission.”
For more than 80 years, manned aircraft have supported firefighting missions during daylight hours. Because unmanned K-MAX can fly day and night and in all weather, its insertion into firefighting operations offers the potential to triple the amount of time ground firefighters can receive aerial support, says Lockheed Martin.
The Stalker XE UAS, which can achieve more than eight hours of flight endurance, worked in tandem with K-MAX to identify hot spots and fire intensity with its electro-optical, infrared camera.