The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has invited proposals for its Upward Falling Payloads (UFP) programme, intended to support the US Navy with distributed technologies.
Focused on developing unmanned, distributed systems that can be deployed to hibernate in deep-sea capsules for extended periods, the UFP concept aims to remotely operate and recall the systems up to the surface for operational support and situational awareness whenever required.
DARPA programme manager Andy Coon said the goal was to support the navy with distributed technologies anywhere, anytime over wider maritime areas.
"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," Coon added.
The programme development is centred on three main areas that include communications, deep ocean ‘risers’ that contain the payloads, and the actual payloads.
With an emphasis on the use of completely enclosed pressure containment with its risers, the programme does not seek payloads specialisation to address the extreme pressures of the sea, provides opportunity for cheap stealth and makes retrieval costs prohibitive.
The UFP concept however reduces the probability of losing any single node as it does not come under a weapons programme.
Based on the specific payload, the pre-distributed and hidden systems are expected to provide non-lethal capabilities including, disruption, deception, networking and rescue for any mission.
"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," Coon concluded.
Image: DARPA’s UFP concept aims to launch payloads from deep-sea anywhere and anytime. Photo: courtesy of DARPA.