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Leidos subsidiary Dynetics has carried out the third flight test series of the X-61A Gremlins Air Vehicle (GAV).

Conducted at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, US, the test series also included the Gremlins airborne recovery system.

It was conducted as part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Gremlins programme.

The programme seeks to provide the US Air Force (USAF) with the ability to launch groups of low-cost, reusable unmanned aerial systems (UAS) from a host aircraft and recover them in mid-air following the completion of their mission.

The latest test series demonstrated the automated and manual safety behaviours of the vehicle.

According to Dynetics, the X-61A air vehicle operated safely in proximity with a manned C-130 recovery aircraft.

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Dynetics Gremlins team programme manager Tim Keeter stated: “Our innovative safety functions are a critical part of the Gremlins system.

“With five total flights to date, almost 11 hours logged in flight and a thorough, disciplined test plan, we are pleased with the safe operation of our system. That’s a significant milestone for Gremlins.”

In July, the company announced the completion of a second flight test.

Since then, Dynetics Gremlins team has been working to achieve several aerial docking attempts with the Gremlins Autonomous Docking System (GADS).

In December, DARPA announced that nine attempts were made to engage the recovery system and capture the Gremlins in flight.

Each attempt saw the systems ‘within inches of connection’ from being recovered.

Keeter added: “Our goal is to advance as far along on our test objectives, collect data, and thereby mature the system as much as we can.

“The ultimate programme goal, of course, is safe, reliable airborne recovery at a 4-in-30-minute rate. While we have not yet achieved that objective, every time we fly, we get better.”

Currently, four GAVs are preparing for the next series of flights early this year.

Dynetics flew X-61A GAV for the first time in November 2019.