DARPA Wants Remote Control Pods To Hide UAVs On Seafloor
By Paul Kruczkowski, Editor
Calling all communications experts, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) issued a request for proposals on January 11 to support its Upward Falling Payload (UFP) program. The concept is to develop deployable, unmanned, distributed systems — like small UAVs — that lie in wait on the ocean floor in special containers, ready to launch and travel to the surface at a moment’s notice.
The project’s goal is to help the U.S. Navy conduct operations throughout the vast oceans with increasingly limited resources. Despite all the advances in unmanned systems, including autonomous flight, the challenge of how to get these systems in place still remains. By staging assets in what DARPA refers to as “deep-sea nodes,” payloads can be secretly placed in locations throughout the oceans and brought to life anytime, anywhere — to affect wide areas without delay.
One of the major project challenges — and the reason DARPA reached out to the communications community specifically — is the need to remotely wake up the slumbering strategic assets remotely, perhaps after lying dormant deep at sea for years. “To make this work, we need to address technical challenges like extended survival of nodes under extreme ocean pressures, communications to wake-up the nodes after years of sleep, and efficient launch of payloads to the surface,” said Andy Coon, DARPA program manager.
DARPA needs a wide variety of engineering expertise, from the telecom sector to oil exploration industry, to gain insight into signal propagation in water and on the seafloor. Know-how in unmanned platforms, electronic warfare (EW), anti-submarine warfare, distributed sensors, and sensor packages can also contribute to this endeavor.
The UFP program is not a weapons program. One example of the concept in action would be to store a UAV in a deep-sea node, calling it to the surface to launch it from its underwater storage capsule to provide critical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
The agency announcement provides the specific capabilities sought by DARPA. The proposer’s day conference is scheduled for January 25, 2013, in the DARPA Conference Center (Arlington, VA).