Design us a flying sub, begs, DARPA (and make it a drone one, please).

January 15, 2013 | By | Reply More

As we stand today, cost and complexity limit the US Navy to fewer weapons systems and platforms, so resources are strained to operate over large maritime areas. Drones are commonly envisioned to fill coverage gaps and deliver action at a distance. However, for all of the advances in sensing, autonomy, and unmanned platforms in recent years, the usefulness of such technology becomes academic when faced with the question, “How do you get the systems there?”

DARPA’s Upward Falling Payloads program seeks to address that challenge.

The UFP concept centers on developing deployable, unmanned, distributed systems that lie on the deep-ocean floor in special containers for years at a time. These deep-sea nodes would then be woken up remotely when needed and recalled to the surface. In other words, they “fall upward.”

Design us a flying sub, begs, DARPA (and make it a drone one, please).

Built it… in plastic with glue!

“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 without delay,” said Andy Coon, DARPA program manager. “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.”

Almost half of the world’s oceans are more than four kilometers deep. This provides considerable opportunity for cheap stealth. The vastness and depth make retrieval costs prohibitive. Despite this, the UFP program is specifically not a weapons program, and the risks to losing any single node will be minimal.

Depending on the specific payload, systems would provide a range of non-lethal but useful capabilities such as situational awareness, disruption, deception, networking, rescue, or any other mission that benefits from being pre-distributed and hidden. An example class of systems might be small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that launch to the surface in capsules, take off and provide aerial situational awareness, networking or decoy functions. Waterborne applications are sought as well.

“We are simply offering an alternative path to realize these missions without requiring legacy ships and aircraft to launch the technology, and without growing the reach and complexity of unmanned platforms,” said Coon.

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Category: Science

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Colonel Frog is a long time science fiction and fantasy fan. He loves reading novels in the field, and he also enjoys watching movies (as well as reading lots of other genre books).

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