DARPA tackles challenges of deploying deep-sea systems
- By William Welsh
- Jan 14, 2013
The Pentagon’s high-tech research arm is looking into the feasibility of deploying distributed systems on ocean floors that could be activated in future years to provide operational support and situational awareness when needed.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has created a program, known as Upward Falling Payloads, to explore low-cost, unmanned and distributed systems as an alternative or supplement to more costly traditional naval platforms such as aircraft, ships and submarines.
Power and logistics continue to pose barriers to deploying such systems in the world’s vast oceans, DARPA said in a Jan. 11 presolicitation notice. It is calling on industry and other interested parties to investigate innovative and revolutionary approaches related to the science, devices and systems to make the concept possible.
As DARPA outlines, the UFP approach calls for pre-deploying deep sea ocean nodes years in advance in forward areas. Nearly half of the world’s oceans are more than four kilometers deep, thus offering many possibilities for concealment and storage of the nodes.
The military would command these nodes and launch them when needed. The activated nodes would offer the military the opportunity to operate across great ocean distances at lower costs than currently possible, and also give it the opportunity to surprise maritime targets when the nodes are launched.
To be feasible, the program must demonstrate that the nodes can survive for years under extreme pressure, be reliably triggered from distant commands, and rapidly rise to the ocean surface and successfully deploy their payload
DARPA will hold a Proposers’ Day Conference for the program on Jan. 25 in Arlington, Va. Proposals abstracts are due Feb. 5, and completed proposals are due by March 12.
William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.