Dynetics has successfully completed a third test flight series with its prototype unmanned aerial system (UAS) and retrieval mechanism for DARPA’s Gremlins project, which aims to develop an in-flight recovery capability for small drones. The Gremlins Air Vehicle (GAV) and Gremlins Recovery System were tested at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, and flew three more times for a total of seven flight hours.
The objectives of this test flight series were to demonstrate the automated and manual safety behaviors of the system, and to continue to make progress towards the goal of multiple aerial docking attempts. The safety behaviors demonstrated safe operation of the X-61A GAV on the range in close formation with the manned C-130 recovery aircraft.
The Dynetics Gremlins team was able to continue progress towards multiple aerial docking attempts with the Gremlins Autonomous Docking System (GADS). The program’s first ever aerial docking attempts were performed, with nine attempts in total and each attempt coming within inches of capture.
As with the previous test flight, the three GAVs were successfully recovered on the ground using the parachute system. All four existing GAVs are presently being prepared for the next series of flights which are due to take place in the near future.
Dynetics was one of four companies awarded a Phase 1 contract for the Gremlins program. Phase 2 was awarded to two of the initial four performers, and following Phase 3 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.
Tim Keeter, program manager for the Dynetics Gremlins team, commented: “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.”
“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 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.”