General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI) announced that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has continued to contract the company for Phase 2 of the Gremlins program.
The Gremlins program seeks to develop innovative technologies and systems enabling aircraft to launch volleys of low-cost, reusable unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and safely and reliably retrieve them in mid-air. Such systems, or “gremlins,” would be deployed with a mixture of mission payloads capable of generating a variety of effects in a distributed and coordinated manner, providing U.S. forces with improved operational flexibility at a lower cost than is possible with conventional platforms.
“GA-ASI is committed to the development of an unmanned distributed sensing and targeting system to support tomorrow’s warfighter,” said David R. Alexander, president of aircraft systems. “At the same time, we see the potential for using this technology on our own Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper RPA to offer our customers new mission capabilities.”
GA-ASI was awarded a contract for Phase 1 of the program in March 2016. While Phase 1 was conceptual in nature, Phase 2 aims to mature the design and perform in-flight risk reduction testing for the C-130-based recovery system. Activities will include program design review (PDR) for the aircraft and recovery system, ground testing to validate key technologies, and flight test to demonstrate safety and recovery system performance. The program is expected to culminate in an air launch and recovery demonstration in 2019.
The Gremlin aircraft is one in a line of new small UAS (SUAS) being developed by GA-ASI. The vehicle is capable of one-hour time-on-station at a range of 300 nmi while carrying a modular 60-pound payload.