New unmanned aerial vehicle technology continues to push the boundaries of what these sophisticated machines can do. Autonomous computing with advanced electronics have made previous dangerous missions safe for the marines. The Kaman K-Max autonomous helicopter can haul up to 6000 pounds on 75 foot tether. It has a range of 250 miles. Top speed of 100 knots (115 mph). The operator simply starts the helicopter with a push of a button, and the computer takes over. It can fly in day or night operations. Two of these helicopters have been deployed in Afghanistan and they have flown over 2 million pounds of cargo.
Different types of propulsion are being tested and the newest spy drone from Boeing uses hydrogen power. The Boeing Phantomeye has a much higher power to weight ratio than previous models using fossil fuels. When testing is complete the Phantomeye will be able to fly as high as 65,000 feet and remain aloft up to 4 days. That is 3 times longer than any competitor.
Another new surveillance platform is the Northrop Grumman long endurance multi-intelligence vehicle (LEMV). The giant hybrid blimp will be able to sustain flight up to 20 days at an attitude of 20,000 feet. The machine combines traditional blimp aerodynamics with vector powered thrust engines. Its aerodynamic shape, fins and rudder allow for great maneuverability and higher payloads. It also has the unique ability not to have to add ballast to compensate for fuel burnt in flight.