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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Program Insider: Kaman Moves Forward with Unmanned Burro

Although the sale of new helicopters by Kaman Aerospace of Bloomfield, Conn. has dwindled off to virtually nothing in recent years, the company has continued to be one of the most profitable aerospace manufacturing companies by building components and structures for other aircraft companies. But in a relatively new venture, Kaman and its partner, Lockheed, are developing the Burro, an unmanned version of Kaman’s single-seat K-MAX cargo lifter.

"In terms of our helicopter OEM business, we’re still focused on what we believe is an opportunity in the unmanned Burro program," said Salvatore Bordonaro, president of the Kaman Helicopter division. "We’re still in the development stage and the next step is taking the pilot out of the cockpit."

The Burro, which can deliver 6,000 lbs. of cargo slung beneath it, could be used to deliver munitions and supplies to forward areas without placing a pilot in harm’s way. The U.S. Army and U.S. Marines expressed preliminary interest in the concept and hosted a demonstration of a prototype at Quantico Marine Base late last year.

"The key aspect of the [aircaft] is the fact that it will perform at high altitudes and still have a pretty sizable payload, thanks to the intermeshing rotor aspect of it," said Bordonaro.

Although Kaman has not sold a new helicopter in years, it still supports 22 K-MAX and 18 SH-2 Seasprite search and rescue helicopters around the world.

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