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DARPA wants sleeper drones at the bottom of the sea

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Mark Rockwell
Jan 15, 2013

Defense department researchers are looking for ways to store, then deploy, unmanned, unarmed drones from the ocean floor when situations dictate.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) said on Jan. 11 that it is looking to develop distributed systems that hibernate in deep-sea capsules for years, wake up when commanded, and deploy to surface providing operational support and situational awareness. It stressed that the drones wouldn’t carry weapons and would be used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in contested areas.

It’s hoping to tap into the deep-ocean engineering experience that the telecommunications and oil-exploration industry have with signal propagation in the water and on the seafloor.

It said the project would help the Navy cope with mounting costs and complexities that could inhibit operations over vast maritime areas. “Unmanned systems and sensors are commonly envisioned to fill coverage gaps and deliver action at a distance,” said DARPA. It added, however, that for all of the advances in sensing, autonomy, and unmanned platforms in recent years, the technologies’ usefulness becomes academic when faced with deployment issues.

DARPA’s said its “Upward Falling Payloads” (UFP) program seeks to address that challenge.

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This article was posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 9:31 am

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