Kaman Corporation, a company that makes aerospace components and helicopters, has announced a $10 million USD investment in Near Earth Autonomy, which creates autonomous flight systems for drones and full-sized helicopters.

Above: Near Earth Autonomy’s automation hardware integrated with a Kaman K-Max helicopter

In exchange for the $10 million investment, Kaman Corporation will receive minority interest in the outstanding equity of Near Earth and one seat on its board of directors. According to a recent press release from Nearth Earth Autonomy, the funds will be used to accelerate its technology to establish an ‘industry standard’ in autonomous
solutions for aircraft.

Kaman will also become Nearth Earth Autonomy’s preferred parts manufacturer, leveraging Kaman’s decades of experience in aerospace components manufacturing.

The announcement of this investment follows an initial partnership agreement between Kaman and Near Earth Autonomy in August of 2020, in which Near Earth signed on to develop autonomous systems for Kaman’s K-Max TITAN helicopter. The K-Max TITAN, an impressive helicopter capable of carrying over 6,000 lbs of cargo, will be one of Near Earth’s largest autonomy-enabled aircraft, with uses in aerial mobility, military, delivery, and medical relief. In addition, Kaman also made an announcement in 2021 of its intentions to build autonomous eVTOL aircraft for military applications.

Going forward, Near Earth will provide safe landing, obstacle avoidance, and other autonomous flight technologies such as sense and avoid, navigation in a GPS-denied environment, and precision landing for Kaman’s helicopters, some of which are built to serve the United States Marine Corps.

Kaman has been making aerospace components and aircraft since as early as 1945. Said Ian Walsh, Chairman, President and CEO of Kaman, “We are excited about this opportunity to accelerate the technology development of
autonomous systems. After several years of working together on our K-MAX TITAN and most recently on KARGO UAV, taking our relationship with Near Earth to the next level will help us accelerate this important technology even faster. In an ever-changing and growing autonomy market, we are confident that our joint expertise will result in highly capable, reliable, affordable and maintainable solutions for both military and commercial

Sanjiv Singh, CEO of Near Earth Autonomy commented, “This investment represents a major leap forward for both Kaman and Near Earth to enable the next generation of autonomous aerial logistics. Kaman has a well-deserved reputation for its robust aircraft specializing in logistics and is a fantastic partner for the development of autonomous cargo transport. We are excited at the opportunity to mature the technology for the commonplace use of autonomous aircraft for logistics across the industry.”

Why it’s important: Kaman and Near Earth Autonomy are making massive steps in laying the foundation for autonomous aircraft in the U.S and abroad. By creating autonomous and optionally piloted helicopters that are set to enter service into the military in the very near future, these companies are creating need for the software, hardware, regulations, and airspace management systems that will be required for large-scale autonomous operations including aircraft like eVTOL air taxis.

Posted by Benji