The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded contracts to General Atomics’ aeronautical systems business and Dynetics under the second phase of a program that seeks to develop unmanned aircraft systems that can be launched and retrieved by aircraft carriers.
DARPA said Wednesday the Gremlins program’s phase two aims to build and conduct risk-reduction tests of a system’s components and complete work on initial designs of platforms for technology demonstrations.
“We’re aiming in Phase 2 to mature two system concepts to enable ‘aircraft carriers in the sky’ using air-recoverable UASs that could carry various payloads—advances that would greatly extend the range, flexibility, and affordability of UAS operations for the U.S. military,” said Scott Wierzbanowski, a DARPA program manager.
Phase 3 of the program will see developers conduct flight tests of aerial launch-and-recovery operations for gremlin systems.
DARPA expects flight demonstrations to occur in 2019.
The Gremlins program seeks to use bombers, fighter jets and other transport aircraft to launch and recover multiple drones in mid-air once they accomplish their missions and then reuse those gremlin systems for up to 20 times.
DARPA awarded the contracts nearly a year after it selected four companies for the program’s initial phase.