Kaman Buys Into Autonomy Developer Near Earth

Kaman Kargo
Kaman is developing the Kargo to meet a Marine Corps need for an autonomous medium-lift aircraft to support distributed forces.
Credit: Kaman

Kaman has invested $10 million in autonomous flight specialist Near Earth Autonomy, securing a seat on the board in return for a minority interest.

The companies are working together to develop the Kaman K-Max Titan heavy-lift and Kargo medium-lift autonomous logistics aircraft.

Pittsburgh-based Near Earth has been working with Kaman since 2019 to apply autonomy technology to the 4,500-lb.-paylaod K-Max to develop an optionally piloted heavy-lift helicopter for the U.S. Marine Corps and the commercial market. The K-Max Titan made its first flight in April 2021.

Near Earth also is working on the 800-lb.-payload Kargo, which was unveiled by Kaman in September 2021 and is aimed at emerging requirements such as the Marine Corps’ Unmanned Logistics Systems – Air. A company-funded prototype of the turboshaft-powered quadrotor Kargo is planned to fly this year.

Near Earth will supply safe landing, obstacle avoidance and other autonomous flight technologies such as sense-and-avoid, navigation in GPS-denied environments and precision landing. Kaman is developing the Titan autonomy system as a kit for installation on K-Max commercial helicopters to expand their mission capability by enabling optionally piloted operation. Kargo will have similar system elements.

“Taking our relationship with Near Earth to the next level will help us accelerate this important technology even faster,” says Ian Walsh, Kaman chairman, president and CEO. “In an ever-changing and growing autonomy market, we are confident our joint enterprise will result in highly capable, reliable, affordable and maintainable solutions for both military and commercial applications.”

Citing Kaman’s reputation for building robust aircraft, Near Earth CEO Sanjiv Singh describes the investment as “a major leap forward for both Kaman and Near Earth to enable the next generation of autonomous aerial logistics.”

Graham Warwick

Graham leads Aviation Week's coverage of technology, focusing on engineering and technology across the aerospace industry, with a special focus on identifying technologies of strategic importance to aviation, aerospace and defense.