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DARPA Demonstrates Airborne Recovery of UAS

Dynetics’ GREMLIN Air Vehicle Validates Recovery to C-130

Two X-61 GREMLIN Air Vehicles (GAV) validated all autonomous formation flying positions, and one successfully demonstrated airborne recovery to a C-130 in flight testing last month.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) GREMLINS programme seeks to examine a host of UAS technologies, ranging from low-cost, highly effective airframes to in-flight recovery. During the final experiment of the most recent flight test series, the team refurbished an X-61 vehicle and conducted a second flight within 24 working-hours. In addition, many hours of data were collected over four flights, including air vehicle performance, aerodynamic interactions between the recovery bullet and GAV, and contact dynamics for airborne retrieval. Unfortunately, one GAV was destroyed during the flight tests.

This recovery was the culmination of years of hard work and demonstrates the feasibility of safe, reliable airborne recovery,” stated LtCol Paul Calhoun, Program Manager for GREMLINS in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “Such a capability will likely prove to be critical for future distributed air operations […] Airborne recovery is complex […] We will take some time to enjoy the success of this deployment, then get back to work further analyzing the data and determining next steps for the GREMLINS technology.

Safe, effective, and reliable air recoveries promise to dramatically expand the range and potential uses of UASin conflict situations. The GAVs can be equipped with a variety of sensors and other mission-specific payloads, and can also be launched from a variety of aircraft, keeping manned platforms safely beyond the range of hostile actors. After airborne retrieval, the GAVs can be refurbished by ground crews to prepare them for another mission within 24 hours.

Dynetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos, is developing the GREMLIN vehicles.


A GAV undergoing flight testing at Dugway Proving Ground, UT, in October. (Photo: DARPA)

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