PHI, Kaman Team Up To Commercialize Kargo UAS


Kaman's Kargo on display at Farnborough Airshow 2022.

Credit: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

ATLANTA—Helicopter operator PHI Aviation is teaming up with Kaman to support development of the OEM’s Kargo autonomous utility uncrewed air system (UAS).

PHI, which is best known for its support to the offshore oil-and-gas industry, has signed a non-binding agreement to purchase 50 of the air systems. Crucially, PHI will help Kaman explore the potential missions for the UAS, refine its design for the commercial market and achieve certification.

“The agreement with PHI will help to bring the Kargo UAS to the commercial marketplace,” Carroll Lane, Kaman’s vice president of precision products, told journalists at Helicopter Association International’s Heli-Expo here March 7. “The PHI team is going to help us understand exactly what our commercial operators need and refine the design to best suit those needs.”

Development of the Rolls-Royce M250-powered multi-copter configuration Kargo has been underway by Kaman for two years. The UAS has already been selected for a U.S. Marine Corps logistics demonstration program, Medium Unmanned Logistics Systems – Air, that will see the Kargo undertake a Marine Corps Field User Capability Assessment trial.

The aircraft will be able to fly up to 500 nm, depending on the payload, and has been developed to “complement manned or crewed aircraft operations,” Lane added.

A full-scale prototype of Kargo will fly during the first half of this year. Lane predicts that with PHI’s help, the system could be certified in three to four years.

The work will study the level of autonomy required for commercial operations and if design changes are needed from the military variant in development.

Keith Mullet, the managing director of PHI Aviation, said the introduction of Kargo would help the company diversify its business and allow it to explore new opportunities.

“This is a technology that complements and supplements what we do today, and it unlocks more capability for our customers,” Mullett told journalists.

He said such systems would be able to support offshore oil, gas, and wind platforms, as well as remote mining facilities.

The agreement with PHI comes weeks after Kaman announced it would end production of the distinctive K-MAX as part of a re-structuring of the engineering company.

Three more K-MAXs are being built and will be delivered later this year before the production line closes.

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Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.