In this Dec. 17, 2011 photo provided by the U.S. Marine Corps, a K-MAX pilotless freight helicopter, a detachment from Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1, transports cargo in Camp Dwyer, Helmand province, south of Kabul, Afghanistan. The pilotless helicopter, intended to fly cargo missions to remote outposts where frequent roadside bombs threaten access by road convoys, will be used in Afghanistan for a longer period of time than expected. (Photo: AP/U.S. Marines, Justin M. Boling)
The Marines' helicopter drone just had its stay serving troops in Afghanistan extended indefinitely.
Reuters reported that although the K-MAX autonomous helicopter was initially deployed for limited use, Naval Air Systems Command spokeswoman Jamie Cosgrove said that the two being used in Afghanistan currently will remain there "until otherwise directed."
TheBlaze reported about the K-MAX', developed by Lockheed Martin, last year when it receiving a tech upgrade to be controlled by a smartphone. The autonomous technology is useful for troops from a safety standpoint:
Called the Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS), it will allow resupply in harsh or dangerous climates in the dead of night without possibility of human error.
It’s a military program designed to save lives, and dollars, at the same time. Much of this hinges on the ability to control the newly developed rotor UAV fleet and upgrade their onboard technologies.
(Photo:AP/U.S. Marines, Justin M. Boling)
The only human interaction the helicopter needs is to get started.
Reuters went on to report Dan Schultz, vice president of Lockheed's ship and aviation systems, saying the helicopters help protect troops by reducing the use of convoys to transport goods. The two helicopters alone have flown more than 1,000 missions and carried more than 3 million pounds of cargo, in total.
Watch the K-MAX helicopter in action in this cargo drop test flight:
U.S. troops are slated to pull out of Afghanistan in 2014.