The program envisions launching groups of UASs from existing large aircraft such as bombers or transport aircraft—as well as from fighters and other small, fixed-wing platforms—while those planes are out of range of adversary defenses. When the gremlins complete their mission, a C-130 transport aircraft would retrieve them in the air and carry them home, where ground crews would prepare them for their next use within 24 hours.
The gremlins’ expected lifetime of about 20 uses could provide significant cost advantages over expendable systems by reducing payload and airframe costs and by having lower mission and maintenance costs than conventional platforms, which are designed to operate for decades.
- Composite Engineering, Inc. (Roseville, Calif.)
- Dynetics, Inc. (Huntsville, Ala.)
- General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (San Diego, Calif.)
- Lockheed Martin Corporation (Dallas, Tex.)
“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.”
Phase 1 of the Gremlins program is designed to pave the way for a proof-of-concept flight demonstration that would validate an air recovery concept of multiple gremlins. The program plans to explore numerous technical areas, including:
Launch and recovery techniques, equipment and aircraft integration concepts
Low-cost, limited-life airframe designs that leverage existing technology and require only modest modifications to current aircraft
High-fidelity analysis, precision digital flight control, relative navigation and station keeping