UAS

Dynetics takes next phase of DARPA's 'Gremlins' drone program

Dynetics has beaten out General Atomics for a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program to build unmanned aerial drones that can be launched and retrieved from an aircraft in-flight.

DARPA’s objective for the “Gremlins” effort is to send groups of drones from large aircraft when those planes are out of range of adversary defenses. The Defense Department said in its Tuesday contracts digest that DARPA wants a system that can deploy and recover diverse distributed payloads in volley quantities.

This contract to Dynetics is for phase three of the program, which calls for demonstrations of the ability to launch multiple air vehicles and safely recover them onto a C-130 transport aircraft by the end of 2019.

The phase three contract is a 21-month, $38.6 million award. The entire Gremlins program will last 43 months and is valued at $64 million.

Dynetics will design its system to deploy a towed, stabilized capture device below and away from a C-130. A drone would then dock with the device and be raised into the C-130 for mechanical security and stowage.

Teammates of Dynetics for the Gremlins effort include Kratos Defense & Security Solutions and Sierra Nevada Corp. They will provide subsystems.

Executives at Kratos have touted Gremlins as a major milestone program in earnings calls with investors and CEO Eric DeMarco in March called it a “game changer for our company” if the Dynetics team were to win it. Kratos has prioritized its unmanned business as a growth area.

Kratos was one of four to have participated in phase one of Gremlins alongside General Atomics, Dynetics and Lockheed Martin. DARPA then narrowed the competition to Dynetics and General Atomics for phase two. At that point, Kratos joined the Dynetics team.

Kratos will lead fabrication, assembly, integration and testing work on each Gremlins vehicle. Sierra Nevada will be responsible for the precision navigation system needed to rendezvous and dock the drone with a C-130.

Other subsystem providers include Williams International, Moog, Airbrone Systems, Systima Technologies, Applied Systems Engineering and International Air Response.

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at rwilkers@washingtontechnology.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also find and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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