DARPA wants to capture drones in flight
DARPA wants to capture drones in flight

The Department of Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA) is still developing the Gremlins project, which appears to be ready for in-flight UAVs.

In the last round of test flights, the agency said, success was only steps away.

A series of flight tests began in late October, the most recent of which was early this month. Officials said the plane was just inches from the restored Gramlins.

The project includes three X-61A Gremlins drones and one C-130 aircraft. The Department of Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA) indicated that the aircraft attempted to retrieve the drone with its arm outstretched, but the unexpected dynamic movement thwarted the attempt.

Each X-61A Gremlins flew over two hours in a third round of testing to check various systems, including autonomous safety and flight technology functions.

DARPA made 9 attempts to capture the Gremlins X-61A with the extension arm of the C-130, but were unsuccessful.

The agency said the relative motion was much more dynamic than expected and that the X-61A Grimlins landed safely on the ground.

“All of our systems looked fine during the ground tests, but the flight tests determine things,” Scott Werzbanowski, Program Director for Gremlins, DARPA's Office of Tactical Technology, said in a statement.

The agency said it was analyzing data from the flight, examining updated designs and models, and was planning a fourth round of tests this spring.

Project Gremlins aims to launch and recover four autonomous aircraft in 30 minutes.

DARPA has been researching the program for several years and believes that the ability to perform such operations greatly increases the possibility of using autonomous vehicles in conflict situations.

Because the autonomous X-61A Gremlins is reusable, military costs can be saved once it gets started.

DARPA expects the autopilot to be able to fly 20 times before it is replaced and to be ready for another mission 24 hours after it is recovered.

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