The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is working on non-lethal military systems that could be launched from sea beds years after first being deployed.
The focus of DARPA's Upward Falling Payloads programme is remotely-controlled systems - silent, low-observable capsules lying in wait on the ocean floor.
The aim is to give naval forces a new type of operational support: pre-positioned systems, ready to be used at a moment's notice. That's something beyond the scope of most present-day operations, which tend to follow weeks - if not months - of planning.
Deep Sea Systems Deployment
DARPA hasn't yet identified which types of technologies are involved in the Upward Falling Payloads programme but, in a recent press release, it does highlight the advantages of deep sea systems deployment tactics. Their primary advantage is what the agency terms ‘cheap stealth'.
Given that close to 50 per cent of the world's oceans are at least four kilometres deep, systems positioned at their very depths would be naturally tricky to detect and even more difficult to retrieve. That optimises the deep sea concealment of sensors and other electronic intelligence packages but, on the flipside, there are also many challenges involved in this kind of work.
These include producing systems resilient enough to survive years of non-use and, twinned to that, developing communications technologies able to reach them at the right time.
To that end, DARPA representatives are now looking at how oil exploration and telecommunications firms have tapped into deep sea resources and hoping that their knowledge and expertise can be of use.
DARPA Deep Seas Programme
"The goal is to support the Navy with distributed technologies anywhere, anytime over large maritime areas", program manager Andy Coon explained in a press release on the DARPA deep seas programme. "If we can do this rapidly, we can get close to the areas we need to affect, or become widely distributed without delay.
"To make this work, we need to address technical challenges like extended survival of nodes under extreme ocean pressure, communications to wake-up the nodes after years of sleep, and efficient launch of payloads to the surface."