As it turned out, at the end of October, the earlier planned flight tests of the Gremlins jet UAVs took place. The purpose of the tests was to test the interaction of drones in the group and return the vehicles in the air to the transport aircraft. For the return, the standard is set: air pickup of four UAVs within half an hour. During the tests, all attempts to capture the Gremlins in the air were unsuccessful. The design of the gripper required some work.
The DARPA program (US Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) “Gremlins” involves the air dropping of groups of drones and the return pickup of the X-61A UAV after completing a mission on board transport aircraft near enemy air defense zones. The transporters will be out of the affected area, but as close to the area of operations as possible. On their shoulders will lay the delivery of “Gremlins” to the place of the task and capture the field of completion of the mission. Thus, unmanned aerial vehicles will not waste time and fuel on approaching the target and will be able to operate longer and further.
The group flight of the Gremlins was scheduled for the spring of this year, but was postponed to the second half without explanation. Unfortunately for the program, during the test flight, it was possible to complete only part of the tasks set, namely, to check the operation of the UAV in group interaction. The UAVs spent about three hours in the air and demonstrated the distribution of tasks when performing test tasks.
The second goal of the test was to practice the capture of “Gremlins” in the air using a manipulator mounted on a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. During the operation, it turned out that the design of the manipulator and the capture system did not allow the UAV to be captured. Air currents interfered with the coupling. Nine attempts were made on three UAVs, and all of them ended unsuccessfully. The Gremlins had to land by parachute.
The next test flight under the Gremlins program is scheduled for spring 2021. Recall that these UAVs can reach speeds of up to Mach 0.8, stay in the air for up to three hours and cover distances of up to 926 km with a payload of up to 68 kg.
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