Advanced Navigation allows Dynetics to launch and recover drones from mid-air
Dynetics, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Leidos, provides responsive, cost-effective engineering, scientific, IT solutions to the national security, cybersecurity, space, and critical infrastructure sectors. Their portfolio features highly specialized technical services and a range of software and hardware products, including components, subsystems, and complex end-to-end systems.
The U.S. Military is looking for solutions to launch large numbers of small unmanned air systems (UASs) from combat aircraft like fighter jets and bombers with coordinated, distributed capabilities while out of range of adversary defenses.
The project named Gremlins program aims to improve operational flexibility at a lower cost than existing solutions by retrieving reusable UASs in the air once the task is completed, with an expected redeployment in less than 24 hours.
“When they complete their mission, they return to airborne manned platforms to be recovered to a forward operating base where they can be quickly refurbished and put back into the fight. The potential to overwhelm an adversary continuously with multiple volleys is tremendous.” explained Tim Keeter, Deputy Program Manager and Chief Engineer for “Gremlins” at Dynetics.
To support this initiative, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) selected Dynetics to demonstrate its capabilities in that space.
A close-up of the Gremlin
Accurate positioning is paramount to enable drones to be recovered mid-air, and high reliability was also a discriminating factor when the time came for Dynetics to select an Inertial Navigation System for the in-flight recovery component on board the C-130 aircraft.
“The unmanned air vehicles utilized in these future operations will carry a variety of different sensors and other payloads, working together to manage and conduct complex, highly-adaptive operations in contested environments,” explained Tim Keeter.
Therefore, while there was no hard requirement in terms of accuracy, Bill Martin, lead engineer at Dynetics specified that “we were interested in relative position accuracies within 10cm.”
Advanced Navigation’s Spatial Dual was ultimately selected for the task.
”Spatial Dual hits the sweet spot between performance, size, power consumption, and cost for our initial R&D flight test instrumentation need on the Gremlins projectBill MartinLead Engineer, Dynetics
Another contributing factor was “the chance to achieve high accuracy position data through Kinematica post-processing, allowing accurate measurements of the relative positions between the Gremlins recovery aircraft, UAV, and the deployed recovery system.”
A Gremlin in action
Ultimately, Dynetics was satisfied with the performance of the Spatial Dual.
“The Spatial Dual units performed nicely and provided very useful data for post-flight analysis. The Spatial Dual performance during early flight tests, combined with low power consumption and small form factor, convinced us to make the Spatial Dual part of the final recovery system design” said Bill Martin.
Tim Keeter added “Rapid development of innovative and complex systems like Gremlins drives us to identify and use system components with the highest reputation for reliability and performance. We are proud to be working, once again, with Advanced Navigation on another one of our priority demonstration programs.”
Replacing the Spatial Dual, Certus Evo is a groundbreaking dual antenna GNSS aided Inertial Navigation System (INS) that provides extremely accurate position, velocity, acceleration, and orientation. It offers near FOG performance combined with the reliability of MEMS sensors. Low SWaP-C (Size, Weight, Power, and Cost) and multiple communication interfaces make for easy integration. It is available in both OEM and rugged packages.