DARPA Considers Deploying Technology On Ocean Floor

by Patience Wait, InformationWeek.com  |  published on January 19, 2013

DARPA

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is investigating ways to store technology, including drones, on the ocean floor until needed by the U.S. Navy.

An ongoing challenge for the Navy is anticipating where resources will be needed and distributing them accordingly, knowing it can take days or weeks for its ships to reach a location across the globe. DARPA’s new program, called Upward Falling Payloads, would help address that challenge by storing a range of technologies in waterproof containers deep in the ocean. When needed, the containers could be awakened remotely and brought to the surface.

DARPA will hold a half-day conference on Jan. 25 in Arlington, Va., where it will flesh out the three key areas of the program: the communications component that triggers the containers’ rise to the surface; the riser mechanism, which protects against the ocean pressure and lifts the containers; and the actual payloads that can be delivered this way. The agency seeks to attract experts in deep-sea engineering, underwater signaling, sensors, electronic warfare and unmanned platforms. The conference is open only to U.S. contractors.

“The goal is to support the Navy with distributed technologies anywhere, anytime over large maritime areas,” said program manager Andy Coon in a written statement. “If we can do this rapidly, we can get close to the areas we need to affect or become widely distributed without delay.”

The research agency envisions the “just-in-time payloads” would be used for situational awareness, networking, rescue, disruption, deception or other capabilities that could be distributed in advance and hidden in place. In one example, DARPA said small unmanned aerial vehicles could be housed in underwater capsules that could be brought to the surface and launched to provide aerial surveillance or serve as decoys.

The ocean depths can provide “cheap stealth,” speeding the response and extending the reach of the Navy without requiring ships and aircraft to launch the systems. The undersea containers are not intended for weapons systems, DARPA said.

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