Grand Award Winner: Lockheed Martin/Kaman K-Max
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)