The Sierra Nevada Corporation has been selected for the final phase of the Defense Advanced Research Agency’s Gremlins program, which aims to launch and recover reusable drone swarms using manned airborne aircraft far outside of enemy ranges, according to a May 9 press release from the company.
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) will provide Gremlin Air Vehicles with an autonomous docking system, allowing the drones to be retrieved by a C-130 transport aircraft they complete their mission. They would then be carried home and prepared for reuse within 24 hours.
SNC was selected for the program’s Phase 3 team by Dynetics, an aeronautics company. Dynetics is developing a capture device to be deployed below and away from a C-130 and then docked to the Gremlin vehicles, so they can be raised and returned to the transport aircraft mid-flight.
The third and final phase of the program will serve as an opportunity to demonstrate the Gremlin technology developed during the two prior competitive phases, which narrowed competition down from four teams to one.
“SNC’s past accomplishments with autonomous refueling and precision navigation were a perfect fit for what Dynetics planned to accomplish on the Gremlins program,” said Greg Cox, senior vice president of business development and technology for SNC’s electronic and information systems business area.
The multivehicle control services and user interface for the vehicles will be provided by a third team member, Kutta Technology, also an SNC subsidiary. Kutta’s role is to “provide a control station with safe, intuitive work flows for controlling multiple [Gremlin air vehicles] simultaneously from launch to recovery.”
Earlier this month DARPA announced they had successfully tested Gremlin technology during a flight test at Yuma Proving Ground, keeping the program on path toward airborne launch and recovery of multiple drones by late 2019.
“Early flight tests have given us confidence we can meet our objective to recover four gremlins in 30 minutes,” said Scott Wierzbanowski, program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.
DARPA awarded Dynetics a 21-month, $38.6 million contract for the third phase the Gremlin program in April. Other members of the team include Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems, Moog, Airborne Systems, Systima, Applied Systems Engineering, Inc., and International Air Response.