Dynetics’ X-61A Gremlins unmanned air vehicle (UAV) made its first flight in November 2019.

The flight lasted 1h 41min and took place at Dugway Proving Ground near Salt Lake City, Utah, it was announced several months later by Dynetics on 17 January.

However, the UAV was destroyed when its main chute used for landing did not deploy and it crashed into the ground, says Dynetics.

Dynetics X-61A Gremlins in first flight

Source: Dynetics

Dynetics X-61A Gremlins in first flight

“The loss of our vehicle validates our decision to build five [X-61s],” says Tim Keeter, Dynetics Gremlins programme manager. “Overall, I am proud to see all the hard work pay off and we are excited to continue this momentum towards the first airborne recovery in early 2020.”

The Gremlins programme is run by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Its aim is to create low-cost UAVs that could be air-launched and recovered in swarms. The aircraft could be used for a variety of applications including as a surveillance platform or as a loitering munition.

“When the Gremlins complete their mission, a C-130 transport aircraft would retrieve them in the air and carry them home, where ground crews would prepare them for their next use within 24h,” says DARPA. “The Gremlins’ expected lifetime of about 20 uses could provide significant cost advantages over expendable systems by reducing payload and airframe costs and by having lower mission and maintenance costs than conventional platforms, which are designed to operate for decades.”

The final flight in the Gremlins programme requires Dynetics to demonstrate the ability to launch, fly and then recover four X-61As in under 30min.

Dynetics is the prime contractor for the Gremlins programme, while the body of the UAV is built by Kratos Defense and the turbine is supplied by Williams International.