Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Darpa wants to store drones at the bottom of the sea

The US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is launching an "Upward Falling Payloads" project aimed at developing storage capsules for military assets that could stay at the bottom of the sea for years until needed.

The aim is to keep non-lethal technology in the sea, stored in pressurised capsules, ready for deployment. These unmanned, distributed systems would provide the military with operational support such as situational awareness, disruption, deception and rescue. One example might be small unmanned aerial vehicles which could launch to the surface in capsules, take off and then provide observation or decoy functions.

"The goal is to support the Navy with distributed technologies anywhere, anytime over large maritime areas. If we can do this rapidly, we can get close to the areas we need to affect, or become widely distributed with out delay," said Andy Coon, Darpa's programme manager.

The project is not without its challenges: Darpa would need to find ways of extending the survival of nodes under extreme ocean pressure, find ways to wake up these nodes after years of sleep and find ways to efficiently launch payloads to the surface.

Darpa is looking for proposals in three main areas: communications, deep ocean "risers" to contain the payloads and the actual payloads. The organisation hopes to gain insights from deep-sea engineers that work on telecoms and oil exploration, as well as the scientific community.

Darpa has stressed that this programme is not a weapons programme, so the risk of losing any single node will be minimal.

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