The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) has announced that a modified C-130 Hercules cargo plane successfully recovered an X-61A Gremlins drone out of the sky for the first time.
The event marked a milestone in the US military’s effort to deploy and recover groups of small sensor-laden drones with a mothership.
During the flight test last month, two small drones performed several flight formations before the cargo plane successfully grabbed one of them. A third Gremlins, however, was destroyed.
“This recovery was the culmination of years of hard work and demonstrates the feasibility of safe, reliable airborne recovery,” Gremlins program manager LTC. Paul Calhoun said in a press release. “Such a capability will likely prove to be critical for future distributed air operations.”
DARPA envisions that bombers, cargo planes, or smaller aircraft acting as motherships will remain distant from enemy defenses. The drones they carry would fly into danger zones and conduct surveillance, reconnaissance, or electronic warfare missions.
Calhoun said that the agency will continue to collaborate with the air force to further analyze all data collected from the flight test to determine the next steps for the Gremlins technology.