Anatomy of an Autonomous Mission

For the first time, an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) performed a combined mission at extended distances from the operators. Teamed together, these two vehicles completed a ground-based remote sensing and resupply mission without exposing operators to risk.

On August 7, Lockheed Martin’s K-MAX UAV flew, delivered and autonomously released the Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) UGV. Equipped with a Gyrocam 9-inch mid-wave, surveillance sensor, the SMSS performed an autonomous resupply mission for troops in the area, then completed reconnaissance and overwatch duties with a Gyrocam surveillance sensor before returning to base. The Gyrocam scanned for threats and provided geo-location coordinates of hostile personnel for indirect fire missions.


K-MAX has a twin-rotor design that eliminates the need for a tail rotor and maximizes the helicopter’s lift capability. It has lifted up to 6,000 pounds of cargo for the U.S. Marine Corps, up to 75 nautical miles. 


As the largest unmanned vehicle ever deployed, SMSS accompanies soldiers to lessen their loads and supply an additional source for power. It incorporates a lightweight frame, efficient sensor package and can carry up to 1,200 lbs through heavy terrain.


Gyrocam sensor systems host advanced optical sensors and night vision enhancements to aid users in seeing through fog, haze and complete darkness. They provide 360-degree surveillance and share critical information to improve situational awareness.

Discover What This Dependable Trio Can Do

Outside of military applications, both K-MAX and Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) equipped with a Gyrocam sensor could add significant value to commercial and civil missions. These important missions include firefighting, oil and gas pipelining, completing construction tasks and participating in humanitarian aid efforts. The systems can work day and night; reach remote areas in the most austere environments; increase safety for operators; and provide enhanced situational awareness for difficult missions.

During a recent demonstration in “robots moving robots” and end-to-end autonomy, the K-MAX aircraft flew, delivered and autonomously released the SMSS into a landing zone. The SMSS performed an autonomous resupply mission, and then provided additional reconnaissance and overwatch duties with a Gyrocam surveillance sensor before returning to base. Throughout the demonstration, a mast mounted Gyrocam provided constant video surveillance during each phase of the mission to ensure threats were kept at bay.