Skunk Works' next classic will be a drone
Lockheed Martin’s famed Skunk Works, the creators of iconic aircraft like the SR-71 Blackbird, F-22 Raptor, and F-117 Nighthawk, is now turning its skills towards drone helicopters.
The Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded Systems is designed as a autonomous, vertical take-off drone that can be attached to vehicles, cargo capsules, casualty evacuation pods, and other payloads.
The entire system could be controlled by troops in the field with tablets and phones and would require a landing area half the size of a helicopter of similar strength.
Currently, the Marine Corps is leading the requirements planning for the drone, but they hope to get the other services involved to help share costs. The craft begins ground tests in Jan. 2016 and is scheduled for flight tests in Jun. 2016.
Lockheed Martin already has one autonomous helicopter to their credit. The K-MAX unmanned cargo helicopter supported Marines in Afghanistan. The K-MAX flew on its own between destinations while remote pilots took over for sensitive maneuvers.