DARPA Gremlin Drone Tests

In November, DARPA X-61A Gremlins Air Vehicle (GAV) flew for more than two hours, successfully validating all autonomous formation flying positions and safety features. Nine attempts were made at mechanical engagement of the GAVs to the docking bullet extended from a C-130 aircraft, but relative movement was more dynamic than expected and each GAV ultimately, safely parachuted to the ground.

DARPA wants to launch smaller swarm of two to four unmanned aircraft out the back of a C-130 or from wing mounts. Eventually, a single C-130 could launch and recover up to 16 gremlin vehicles. Gremlins could be launched from F-16s, B-52s, and other aircraft after some modifications.

Gremlins air vehicles are 14-feet long and weigh about 1,600 pounds when fully fueled.

DARPA has launched the Gremlins program. Named for the imaginary, mischievous imps that became the good luck charms of many British pilots during World War II, 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. (DARPA illustration)

There are also microdrones where swarms of hundreds of drones could be launched from one plane.

Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

9 thoughts on “DARPA Gremlin Drone Tests”

  1. That's pretty much how the Reagan-era "Star Wars" missile defense program brought the USSR to arms control negotiations. It was envisioned as a 7-layer system (2 boost phase, 3 mid-course, and 2 terminal defense). If each layer were 60% successful, which was considered a reasonable goal, then only one in 36 warheads makes it through. That's not enough to win. Building enough missiles to win would bankrupt the USSR.

    As a country that had recently beat them to the Moon, they felt nothing was impossible for the US if we really set our minds to it. So rather than that, they decided arms control was the better approach.

  2. Anyone want to start a pool on when we will have the first mass killing by drone(s) … that isn't state sponsored? That sort of thing seems to be within the ability of a gifted hobbyist.

  3. Which is why the USA should concentrate on developing the most expensive weapons systems possible.
    That way their enemies can't afford them.

  4. Any time you see a cool new weapon system, imagine it being used against you or your nation – because weapons have no loyalty to their original creators.

  5. I'm not sure that is the best question. The armor on a Bradley is barely capable of stopping an 50 cal "ma duece" round, let alone even a light RPG. A 25mm chain gun, LAWS, AT4 etc. will go through them the long way, let alone a TOW or other anti tank round. The best this level of armor could really hope for is to protect from blast and shrapnel from artillery. Even tanks struggle with IED's.
    Seems to me a very large number of relatively lighter vehicles armed with sufficient sensors and firepower to take out light vehicles, or possibly a tank with a Javelin, that relies more on speed would be a more efficient use of resources. If you could get these vehicles into the enemy rear and attack logistics such as fuel and ammo, or lay mine fields to shape the battlefield, even better.
    Also, the more armor, the more weight. The more weight, the more powerful engines and transmissions needed. All of this requires more fuel, adding to your already vulnerable and stressed logistics tails. I'm not sure if upgraded Bradley's would be a very good use of autonomous or semi autonomous vehicle architectures.
    Mobile minefield and gun platforms for ambushes, maybe.
    Also when someone sets off a EMP, nuclear or non nuclear, on your battle plan it may ruin your whole day if you depend too much on transistors.

  6. Not a terrible idea tbh. Use the drone Bradleys as sacrificial units in an offensive operation. You could have three drone Bradleys controlled from a single Bradley "mothership" with failover to remote control in the event the mothership is incapacitated.

  7. If I were a defense contractor I’d work on an upgrade package to make Bradley’s in to drone Bradley’s.

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