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DARPA to deploy deep sea drones that surface on command

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced this week this it plans to deploy deep sea drones that surface on command. With fewer weapons systems and war-fighting platforms due to budget and complexity issues, the NAVY has to get creative to stay competitive on the battlefield. The best way to deal with these constraints is to rely on unmanned systems. DARPA’s latest technological innovation, the Upward Falling Payloads program, will try to address the issue of system delivery in unmanned environments.

The Upward Falling Payloads program would allow unmanned drones to sit at the bottom of the ocean floor in special containers for years at a time. When the drones are needed for operational or tactical purposes, commands for them to wake up could be sent remotely. As always, DARPA wants to rise to the challenge of keeping these unmanned systems safe under extreme ocean pressure.

DARPA is looking for proposals in three key areas for developing the program: Communications, deep ocean “risers” to hold the payloads, and the actual payloads. DARPA believes that engineers from the telecom and oil-exploration industry as well as scientists from the scientific community could lead to the successful development of deep sea drones.

According to DARPA, nearly fifty percent of the world’s oceans are more than four kilometers deep, giving the NAVY an excellent opportunity to conduct relatively cheap stealth missions with unmanned systems. Because the the program is specifically not a weapons program, the risk of losing any single system is minimized.

Unmanned systems would help with situational awareness, disruption, deception, networking, rescue and numerous other missions. A drone, for example, might be commanded to the surface to take off and provide aerial situational awareness, networking or decoy functions for the war-fighters on the ground. There may also be a number of waterborne applications for the program.

This comes as John Brennan, the man who President Barack Obama nominated to be the next director of the CIA after General David Petraeus resigned, is rumored to be a big supporter of the use of drones and special forces soldiers. Brennan will likely be asked to talk about drones during his nomination hearing, as the president’s drone policy has its critics.