The Navy and Marine Corps plan to run Lockheed Martin’s K-MAX unmanned cargo helicopter through a series of tests recently to determine its suitability for deployment, Naval Air Systems Command said recently.

The five-day Quick Reaction Assessment (QRA) drills will take place at the Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz. ahead of possible deployment, NAVAIR spokesperson Jamie Cosgrove said.

The autonomous flying K-MAX is designed to ferry supplies to soldiers on the battlefield and in remote locations.

The Navy awarded competitive contracts to Lockheed Martin and Boeing [BA] in December to develop an unmanned airlift capability in response to an urgent requirements request by the Marine Corps forces operating in Afghanistan. The Navy hopes to reduce the risks associated with ground supply routes by using the UAVs, said Jim Naylor, Lockheed Martin’s business development lead for K-MAX.

Lockheed Martin developed the unmanned version of K-MAX in partnership with Kaman Aerospace [KAMN]. Boeing is competing with its A160T Hummingbird, a system it inherited after acquiring Frontier Systems in 2004.

NAVAIR is working with Boeing to schedule a QRA at a later date, Cosgrove said.

A formal report on the QRAs will be released 30 days after testing has been completed. The results will be reviewed by the Navy and Marine Corps leadership and a determination on the systems’ fitness for deployment will be made in the fall, Cosgrove said.

Naylor said Lockheed Martin is hoping to generate the interest in K-MAX from the Army. Boeing is also under contract to develop the A160 for the Army as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.