US military Gremlins
Darpa looking for drones which will self-launch and land on cruising planesDarpa

Taking air warfare to the next level, the US military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) is looking for drones which will self-launch from larger airplanes. Officially known as "Gremlins," the drones will act as reusable missiles and return to the mothership after completing the mission.

"We wouldn't be discarding the entire airframe, engine, avionics and payload with every mission, as is done with missiles, but we also wouldn't have to carry the maintainability and operational cost burdens of today's reusable systems, which are meant to stay in service for decades," the defence agency said in a statement.

The Gremlins are aimed at striking a middle ground between expensive drones and missile-like ones, which cannot be used more than once. The agency wants to turn the C-130 cargo planes into launchpads for the Gremlins.

"Our goal is to conduct a compelling proof-of-concept flight demonstration that could employ intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and other modular, non-kinetic payloads in a robust, responsive and affordable manner," said Dan Patt, Darpa programme manager.