21.1.2020

First flight for DARPA's Gremlin X-61A

DARPA’s Gremlins Program Accomplishes First Flight – link

Source: Air Force Magazine

Gremlins air vehicle during a flight test at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, November 2019. DARPA photo.

Article Headlines

  • Dynetics and DARPA are moving forward with their Gremlins drone swarming program after flying a small unmanned aircraft for the first time in late November
  • The X-61A flew with and launched from a C-130 wing at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah
  • This first airborne test demonstrated some basic capabilities, like transitioning to stable, powered flight, deploying a mechanical arm from the C-130 where the drones can dock, and connecting to data links
  • When trying to recover the X-61A on the ground the larger, main parachute suffered a mechanical failure, and the UAV crashed
  • However, the parachute isn’t expected to be part of the final design
  • At the end of the Gremlins program, Dynetics hopes to fly and recover four drones in fewer than 30 minutes. The company wants its aircraft to be able to loiter for one hour in a 300 nautical mile radius, and to carry more than 50 pounds of payloads in its nose cone
  • The next airborne test is scheduled for this spring, when the team will show whether the mechanical docking arm can retrieve and stow the UAV in flight

Overview & Comments

  • The Gremlins program is the most ambitious swarm enabled program currently developed as it features the X-61A, a relatively large and capable system in comparison to other known programs in swarming technology
  • Other international efforts include Britain’s swarming drone unit and the EuroSWARM study – See “UK swarm unit delayed” 
  • China to is too developing various projects however their status is unknown

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