Officials from the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Office of Aviation Services and the U.S. Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management are attending a demonstration conducted by Lockheed Martin and Kaman Aerospace of a remotely piloted K-MAX helicopter.
The companies will use the optionally piloted K-MAX with an unmanned configuration to perform a variety of missions under a wildfire-suppression scenario at the Lucky Peak Helibase in Boise, Idaho, on Oct. 14.
The purpose of the demonstration is to assess the feasibility of using these types of aircraft for a variety of missions, including cargo delivery and wildfire suppression at night and during low-visibility conditions in the unmanned configuration.
The DOI and U.S. Forest Service explain that they are constantly examining new technologies to improve the safety and effectiveness of wildland firefighters on the ground. Aircraft have provided important support to firefighters for more than 80 years, but the challenges of safely operating during periods of reduced visibility and at night can preclude manned aircraft from supporting wildfire operations, according to the agencies.