A Team of Drones Pulls Off a (Staged) Search-and-Rescue Mission


Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky merger leads to unique demonstration involving drones large and small.

In a Nov. 8 demonstration, three Lockheed Martin and one Sikorsky unmanned aircraft worked together to respond to a fire at Griffiss International Airport in upstate New York, one of six FAA-approved UAV testing sites.

First, a small remote-controlled Indago quadcopter identified the fire using a thermal camera, then passed location data to a remotely piloted K-MAX unmanned cargo copter, which fetched a bucket of fire retardant and smothered the blaze (reprising a 2014 Lockheed demonstration).

The operators then deployed a remote-controlled fixed-wing Desert Hawk 3.1 to hunt for a “lost camper” using a combination of infrared and electro-optical sensors. The Hawk transfered this data to a Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft, or SARA, an S-76 helicopter refitted to fly without crew. The SARA, with minimal human guidance, used various sensors to autonomously find a suitable landing site, pick up a survivor, and return home.

This was the first demonstration that brought together unmanned helicopters from both Lockheed and Sikorsky.

“This was just a little over a year from the acquisition that were able to find a few points where we were able to … bring a new a capability to the market that didn’t exist before because we were able to work together. I think we’re going to find a lot more of those,” said Jon McMillen, who leads business development for the K-MAX.

Igor Cherepinsky, who runs Sikorsky’s autonomy programs, said that technicians were able to get the SARA and KMAX talking to one another in less than a week.

“Both K-MAX and SARA are really mature systems,” he said.

Lockheed and partner Boeing are in a tight battle with Bell Helicopter to build new helicopters for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program. But Lockheed stands out as the only player whose unmanned helicopter has actually seen action: K-MAX flew more than 600 cargo missions for Marines in Afghanistan. And last year, the Army successfully wired a Sikorsky Black Hawk to demonstrate unmanned flight as well.

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from DefenseOne.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • Military Readiness: Ensuring Readiness with Analytic Insight

    To determine military readiness, decision makers in defense organizations must develop an understanding of complex inter-relationships among readiness variables. For example, how will an anticipated change in a readiness input really impact readiness at the unit level and, equally important, how will it impact readiness outside of the unit? Learn how to form a more sophisticated and accurate understanding of readiness and make decisions in a timely and cost-effective manner.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Information Operations: Retaking the High Ground

    Today's threats are fluent in rapidly evolving areas of the Internet, especially social media. Learn how military organizations can secure an advantage in this developing arena.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.