Since 2008, roadside bombs and other IEDs have accounted for the deaths of more than half the U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Moving cargo in large convoys put many of those soldiers at risk. The Kaman K-Max autonomous helicopter removes the people from those supply lines.
The pilotless copter can haul 6,000 pounds up to 250 miles, with its load suspended from a 75-foot tether. The only human intervention comes when a Marine with a laptop and an Xbox-like controller presses the start button; after that, K-Max’s autonomous flight controls take over, using data collected by onboard altitude and orientation sensors to fly along preprogrammed GPS routes, day or night. Since last December, the two pilotless K-Max choppers deployed in Afghanistan have carried more than 2 million pounds of cargo.
Range: 250 miles Cargo Capacity: 6,000 pounds Top Speed: 100 knots (115 mph)
What do you wear to dive from the edge of space? Four years ago, daredevil Felix Baumgartner put that question to designers at the David Clark Company, which made the pressure suits worn by the U.S. Air Force’s high-altitude U-2 pilots. The designers responded by building the most advanced pressure suit ever created, with a powered heating system, a stable aerodynamic profile, and a face mask embedded with heated wires to prevent freezing in the -70°F air. On October 14, Baumgartner put on his suit and rode a helium balloon to an altitude of 128,100 feet. With millions watching on television and YouTube, he jumped, reaching a top speed of 833.9 mph (Mach 1.24) before deploying his chute and landing safely in the New Mexico desert.