K-MAX RoboCopter Starts Making Autonomous Afghanistan Deliveries

Little robot helicopters are on the job, delivering supplies to front-line troops in Afghanistan

1 min read
K-MAX RoboCopter Starts Making Autonomous Afghanistan Deliveries

Helicopters are the most reliable way to get supplies to some of the more remote outposts in Afghanistan, but flying resupply missions is dangerous work. As of this week, some of those aerial resupply jobs will be taken over by an unmanned K-MAX helicopter, which flew its first successful mission over the weekend.

The K-MAX is an unmanned (or optionally manned) conversion of the Kaman K-MAX aerial truck, modified for autonomous operations by Lockheed Martin. The K-MAX has that "aerial truck" moniker because it was designed from the ground up for cargo lifting, with intermeshing rotors that allow it to lift three and a half tons of cargo (more than the weight of the helicopter itself) up to 250 miles.

Over the weekend, the K-MAX went from "boy, this would be great if we could get it to work" to "now in preparation for sustained operations" after an autonomous cargo delivery to an unspecified location in southern Afghanistan. Using the K-MAX instead of a manned helicopter protects human crews, of course, but also allows for more missions to be flown more frequently, because robots don't get tired and are generally pretty good at flying in the dark.

K-MAX is currently being worked over by the Marine Corps, and if it checks out, the Army, Navy, and Air Force might all start to invest in an entire fleet of little robotic delivery copters.

Via [ Danger Room ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
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In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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