Say the word Gremlins to any child of the ’80s and we automatically assume you can’t feed them after midnight. DARPA is working on a new program that it calls Gremlins, but rather than adorable little animals that turn murderous after late night snacks, the DARPA Gremlins are flying drone aircraft that are capable of being launched and recovered in the air. DARAP has awarded phase 1 contracts to four different companies to begin looking at ways to make the air-recoverable drone aircraft possible.
Contracts were awarded to Composite Engineering Inc., Dynetics, Inc, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., and Lockheed Martin Corporation. The Gremlin aircraft that DARPA wants would be capable of “generating a variety of effects in a distributed and coordinated manner.” Phase 1 of the program will open the door for a proof-of-concept flight demonstration and validate the air recovery concept for multiple Gremlin aircraft.
“We’ve assembled a motivated group of researchers and developers that we believe could make significant progress toward Gremlins’ vision of delivering distributed airborne capabilities in a robust, responsive and affordable manner,” said Dan Patt, DARPA program manager. “These teams are exploring different, innovative approaches toward achieving this goal and are rolling up their sleeves for the hard work ahead.”
Participants in the Gremlin program would explore different areas including launch and recovery techniques along with equipment and aircraft integration techniques. Phase 1 will develop low-cost aircraft with limited-life airframe designs that use existing technology and only require modest modifications to current aircraft. The Gremlin program also expects the aircraft to offer high-fidelity analysis, precision digital flight control, relative navigation, and station keeping. The expected life for the Gremlin aircraft is about 20 uses and DARPA expects lower mission and maintenance costs than platforms designed to last for decades.