USA — A team led by Lockheed Martin Corp. has successfully tested a pair of unmanned aerial drones at Griffiss International Airport that its developers hope can be used to put out large fires without endangering the lives of pilots.
Lockheed Martin in Owego, working with Kaman unmanned aircraft, used a K-MAX unmanned helicopter drone to airlift and dump 24,000 pounds of water onto a controlled fire set at the Rome airport on Nov. 6.
The helicopter was directed on where to dump its water by a small Indago quad rotor drone that has sensors that detect hot spots, said Dan Spoor, vice president of Aviation and Unmanned Systems at Lockheed Martin.
“The unmanned K-MAX and Indago aircraft can work to fight fires day and night, in all weather, reaching dangerous areas without risking a life,” Spoor said in a statement today as the company released video of the test at Griffiss.
Kaman Chairman, President and CEO Neal Keating said the demonstration shows the potential to adapt unmanned aircraft to firefighting operations, more than doubling the amount of time that can be spent fighting large fires.
Kaman manufactures the K-MAX helicopter, outfitted with Lockheed’s sensors, that can autonomously collect water from a pond and deliver it to the fire location.
The demonstration is among the first to take place as part of a contract with the Syracuse-based NUAIR consortium, which gained Federal Aviation Administration approval in August to operate the only drone test site in the Northeast. NUAIR maintains its operations center at Griffiss.
The goal of the NUAIR test site is to help safely integrate drones into commercial airspace by the end of 2015. NUAIR is one of six national test sites designated by the FAA.
U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna, R-Barneveld, whose district includes Griffiss, said the test shows some of the potential for the NUAIR test site for unmanned aerial systems, or UAS.
“This demonstration is the first-of-its-kind, and it exemplifies the diverse and dynamic missions that UAS can address in the public and commercial sectors,” Hanna said today.