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November 8, 2021

DARPA’s Gremlins programme demonstrates mid-flight retrieval of UAV

This is the fourth testing event and saw the use of two X-61 GAVs, and one of which was destroyed.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has demonstrated the recovery of an airborne uncrewed X-61 Gremlin air vehicle (GAV).

This event, which is DARPA’s fourth testing deployment of Gremlins, marks an important milestone in the efforts to deploy swarm drone systems from a mothership aircraft.

According to DARPA, the latest event took place at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, US on 29 October.

The deployment involved two X-61 GAVs and a C-130 aircraft. The GAVs proved all formation flying positions and other safety features.

DARPA Tactical Technology Office Gremlins programme manager lieutenant colonel Paul Calhoun said: “This recovery was the culmination of years of hard work and demonstrates the feasibility of safe, reliable airborne recovery.

“Such a capability will likely prove to be critical for future distributed air operations.”

DARPA noted that one Gremlin uncrewed air vehicle (UAV) out of the two was recovered while the second was destroyed during the flight tests.

In the final experiment, the Gremlins team refurbished the recovered UAV and flew it again within a period of 24 working hours.

Calhoun added: “Airborne recovery is complex. We will take some time to enjoy the success of this deployment, then get back to work further analysing the data and determining next steps for the Gremlins technology.”

Leidos subsidiary Dynetics is developing the Gremlin vehicles for the DARPA Gremlins programme.

In January this year, Dynetics executed the third flight test series of the X-61A GAV.

The Gremlins programme is aimed at providing the US Air Force (USAF) with the ability to launch groups of low-cost and reusable UAS from a host aircraft and recover them in mid-air following the mission completion.

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