Dynetics announced the successful completion of the third flight test of the X-61A Gremlins drone, but its primary goal – to be recovered by a mothership – was not yet reached.

"With five total flights to date, almost 11 hours logged in flight and a thorough, disciplined test plan, we are pleased with the safe operation of our system. That's a significant milestone for Gremlins,” Tim Keeter, program manager of the Dynetics Gremlins team, was quoted in a press release. 

United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is running the tests, with the goal to develop a low-cost, swarming drone that could be dispatched and later recovered by a transport aircraft mid-air.

The technology demonstrator for such a system, X-61 Gremlins, is being developed by Dynetics, a subsidiary of Leidos. Gremlins was designed to work in conjunction with Lockheed C-130A Hercules mother ship. 

According to the company, the latest test was intended to demonstrate automated and safety behaviors of the vehicle. The drone performed well in a close-proximity formation flight with the mothership, but the recovery procedure was not completed, and X-61 had to be recovered on the ground using the parachute system. 

During the last test in July 2020, nine attempts to recover the drone in flight were conducted, with the same result. 

“While we have not yet achieved that objective, every time we fly, we get better,” added Keeter.

 
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US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently completed Phase 1 of its Gremlins program, which envisions volleys of low-cost, reusable unmanned aerial systems (UASs) that could be launched and later retrieved in mid-air.