Home News Aviation DARPA’s air-recoverable Gremlins drone completes third test

DARPA’s air-recoverable Gremlins drone completes third test

Photo courtesy of Dynetics

U.S. aerospace contractor Dynetics, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Leidos, has reported that the X-61A Gremlins demonstration system successfully completed a third test flight series.

Dynetics says the vehicle system has totaled seven flight hours during the month of November. The test took place at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The details were given in a 20 January media release, to announce that third test series focused on two objectives – demonstrating the automated, manual safety behaviors and continuing progress toward multiple aerial docking attempts. The safety behaviors demonstrated safe operation of the X-61A Gremlins Air Vehicle (GAV) on the range in close formation with the manned C-130 recovery aircraft.

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“Our innovative safety functions are a critical part of the Gremlins system,” said Tim Keeter, program manager for the Dynetics Gremlins team. “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.”

Photo courtesy of Dynetics

After the second test in July, the Dynetics Gremlins team was able to continue progress towards multiple aerial docking attempts with the Gremlins Autonomous Docking System (GADS). The team ultimately achieved the program’s first ever aerial docking attempts, nine attempts in total, with each attempt coming within inches of capture.

“Our goal is to advance as far along on our test objectives, collect data, and thereby mature the system as much as we can,” said Keeter. “The ultimate program 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.”

Photo courtesy of Dynetics

Similar to July’s test flight, the three GAVs were successfully recovered on the ground using the parachute system. All four GAVs are presently being prepared for the next series of flights in early 2021.

Dynetics was one of four companies awarded a Phase 1 contract for the Gremlins program in 2016. Phase 2 was awarded in March 2017 to two of the initial four performers, and Phase 3 followed in April 2018, when Dynetics was named the top performer. The maiden flight of the X-61A occurred in November 2019, flying as predicted with no anomalies in the operational system.

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