Gremlins Program Demonstrates Airborne Recovery

Gremlins Program Demonstrates Airborne Recovery
Gremlins Program Demonstrates Airborne Recovery

US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced that it managed the airborne recovery of unmanned air vehicles at the Gremlins Program. Two X-61 Gremlin Air Vehicles (GAV) successfully validated all autonomous formation flying positions and safety features last month before one GAV ultimately demonstrated airborne recovery to a C-130.


DARPA said, “during the final experiment, the team refurbished an X-61 vehicle and conducted a second flight within 24 working hours. In addition, many hours of data were collected over four flights, including air vehicle performance, aerodynamic interactions between the recovery bullet and GAV, and contact dynamics for airborne retrieval. Unfortunately, one GAV was destroyed during the flight tests.”

Gremlins Program Demonstrates Airborne Recovery


The tests were conducted for more than a year. DARPA has announced nine tests so far.

The goal of the Gremlins program is to demonstrate air launch and air recovery of four GAVs within 30 minutes. The capability of safe, effective, and efficient air recoveries will dramatically expand the potential uses of unmanned air vehicles in conflict situations.

Gremlins Program Demonstrates Airborne Recovery

GAV is an air recoverable and reusable platform. Gremlins are designed to be launched from pylon or rotary launchers. Thus bombers, fighters and cargo aircraft can insert them into the mission. Gremlins include reusable unmanned aerial vehicles that allow manned and more expensive unmanned aircraft to stand off at a safe distance from contested areas. Once the mission is complete, GAV returns to manned airborne platforms. The Gremlins recovery system allows docking in-flight safely.


Airborne recovery technologies are adaptable. This allows underwing and bay recovery by other cargo aircraft without permeant modifications to the host aircraft. The ability to conduct airborne recovery brings some benefits. It means smaller aircraft sizes as it does not need landing gear. It means less dependency or airbase proximity as aircraft will carry it to the mission area. It decreases the cost per mission as it is reusable for the next mission. The GAV can also be carried to the mission area faster. At the same time, the UAV is configured according to the mission during the journey.

 Gremlins Program Demonstrates Airborne Recovery