DARPA’s Gremlin aerially launched and recovered drone completes test flight

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American military R&D agency DARPA’s Gremlins program is developing a system capable of launching and recovering multiple low-cost reusable drones from existing larger aircraft.

The Gremlins would be deployed while out of range of adversary defenses, carry out their mission, and then be retrieved by a C-130 transport aircraft in the air and transported back to a base. Ground crews would then prepare them for their next use.

The Gremlins are being designed to have an expected lifetime of around 20 flights.

The R&D program was launched in 2016 and is now lead by aerospace and defense company Dynetics, which is developing the X-61A drone.  The maiden flight of the X-61A occurred in November 2019.

The test flight in the video above took place in July and is one of a series focused on risk reduction, system and subsystem performance verification in preparation for the first airborne recovery test. The flight test used the second Gremlin Air Vehicle (GAV) to be produced, was conducted at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah and lasted two hours and 12 minutes.

Despite the overly-dramatic music, the flight test shows the progress being made of a very interesting capability and technically-impressive advance in aeronautical engineering.

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About Author

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before eventually becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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