Kawasaki’s Unmanned Helicopter Sets a New Record

The K-Racer-X2 demonstrated a 200 kg payload 8 photos
Photo: Kawasaki Group Channel/YouTube
K-Racer-X2An Earlier Prototype of the K-RacerAn Earlier Prototype of the K-RacerAn Earlier Prototype of the K-RacerAn Earlier Prototype of the K-RacerAn Earlier Prototype of the K-RacerK-Racer-X2
K-Racer-X2 is the latest version of the K-Racer concept developed by Kawasaki Heavy Industries as an answer to cargo challenges in the next era. A recent demonstration, which you can watch below, confirmed this machine’s unprecedented performance in handling heavy loads without human intervention.
It’s been a few years since the K-Racer concept dazzled the industry with its promising capabilities. Back in 2022, this unmanned VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) was at the center of a series of tests carried out by Kawasaki Heavy Industries at the Ina Ski Resort in Ina City Nagano Prefecture. The focus of those initial tests was altitude. At the time, a prototype carrying a payload of 220 pounds (100 kg) demonstrated the ability to reach an altitude of up 2,700 feet (850 meters) above sea level.

The prototype that carried out those flight tests back in 2022 was a test version developed by Aerospace Systems Company and powered by a supercharged motorcycle engine. It was the Kawasaki Ninja H2R motorcycle’s supercharged engine. The idea was to couple it with an innovative chopper configuration. Instead of a tail rotor, it featured propellers on both sides, in addition to main wings and a main rotor.

In flight, these wings would help reduce some of the load on the main rotor, resulting in better speed compared to conventional helicopters. The propellers on each side would also help generate thrust for forward movement by countering the main rotor’s torque.

The K-Racer was designed to operate as an unmanned cargo helicopter with a huge 440-pound (200 kg) payload at an altitude of 9,800 feet (3,000 meters).

Earlier this month, the latest K-Racer prototype demonstrated this targeted payload. It was an industry first – the K-Racer-X2 officially became the only unmanned helicopter developed in Japan to demonstrate a 440 lbs (200 kg) payload.

The demonstration took place at the Fukushima Robot Test Field’s Namie Runway. It was part of a project commissioned by Ina City, Nagano Prefecture. For this project, Kawasaki will conduct several real-world demonstrations aimed at cargo delivery flights to mountain cabins.

The whole idea is that the K-Racer will provide an efficient solution for heavy-duty cargo missions that can’t be supported by conventional drones. This includes an automated loading and unloading system that requires zero human intervention.

This unmanned helicopter concept will answer very specific and stringent issues related to transportation in Japan’s mountainous regions. Multiple factors led to an increasing need for advanced flying machines that can carry out heavy-duty cargo operations with minimum human resources involved.

For now, Kawasaki will continue the real-world testing of the K-Racer prototype geared toward a mass-production version that will eventually hit the market and hopefully have a huge positive impact.

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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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