DARPA says Gremlins X-61A UAS drone 'beautifully' passed second test

DARPA says its Gremlins Air Vehicle X-61A 'beautifully' passed its second round of testing, paving the way for airborne recovery tests scheduled to take place later on this year. The second flight test took place at the US Army Dugway Proving Ground in Utah and involved a series of demonstrations, including autonomous formation station-keeping and rendezvous, testing of its recovery system, and more.

DARPA's Gremlins program works toward the development of Gremlin Air Vehicles, which are unmanned aerial systems that will, at some point in the future, be able to launch as groups from different types of military aircraft.

The idea is that the UAS drones will scope out regions of interest while the manned military aircraft stay farther away, beyond the range that adversary defenses can detect. In the case of its demonstrations, DARPA says its Gremlins program is utilizing a C-130 as the demonstration platform for these drones.

Other various platforms could also be used, however, with DARPA noting that Gremlins are compatible with many systems and transport, plus they can be easily modified. The first testing of the Gremlins UAS took place in November 2019 followed by these second tests, which happened last month.

DARPA Tactical Technology Office program manager Scott Wierzbanowski explained:

The air vehicle performed beautifully from launch through mission modes, and the consistency between the flight tests in November and July increases confidence in the X-61A. However, we made a decision to delay the first air recovery attempt and instead focus on key risk reduction activities to better ensure a smooth air recovery test later this year.