Unmanned Systems News 1/16/13

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DARPA Seeking Just-in-Time Payloads From Seafloor
By Danielle Lucey

 Photo courtesy DARPA.

DARPA’s latest program seeks to bridge an important chasm in using unmanned systems as a gap filler to deliver action at a distance — just how do you get the systems there in time?

This week the agency announced its Upward Falling Payload concept, which would develop deployable, unmanned, distributed systems that lay nested in containers on the seafloor for up to years. When a situation arises and the Navy needs to reach a certain remote area immediately, the payloads would be roused remotely and “fall upward” to the surface. 

“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,” says 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.” 

DARPA is planning a UFP Proposers’ Day Conference, scheduled for Friday, 25 Jan. in Arlington, Va., so it can provide more information on the program and address questions from potential participants. 

DARPA is seeking three areas of proposals — communications, deep-ocean “risers” that would contain the payloads and the actual payloads.

In a press release, DARPA pointed out that this is not a weapons program, but instead a nonlethal but useful capability for situational awareness, disruption, deception, networking, rescuing and other similar scenarios. 

“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,” says Coon.