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DARPA project studies new uses for drones

The use of air-launch and air-retrieve swarms of unmanned aerial vehicles, each with coordinated and distributed capabilities, is being studied by the U.S. military.

By Richard Tomkins
DARPA project studies new uses for drones
An artist's portrayal of a swarm of air-launched drones. Image by DARPA

ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 31 (UPI) -- The U.S. military is launching a program for the use of air-recoverable swarms of unmanned aerial vehicles, each with coordinated, distributed capabilities.

The program by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is called Gremlins and will focus primarily on the technical challenges associated with the in-air launch and recovery of multiple drones from manned aircraft.

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It will also look at new operational capabilities and air operations architectures as well as cost considerations.

"An ability to send large numbers of small unmanned air systems with coordinated, distributed capabilities could provide U.S. forces with improved operational flexibility at much lower cost than is possible with today's expensive, all-in-one platforms—especially if those unmanned systems could be retrieved for reuse while airborne," the agency said.

"Our goal is to conduct a compelling proof-of-concept flight demonstration that could employ intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and other modular, non-kinetic payloads in a robust, responsive and affordable manner."

DARPA said it is holding a Proposers Day for potential participants in the program at its Arlington, Va., headquarters in mid-September.

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