DARPA, the advanced research department of the Pentagon will be testing its latest “submarine drone,” that is, a prototype of SHARK (Submarine Hold at RisK). It is an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV).
The deep-sea testing is a part of DARPA’s Distributed Agile Submarine Hunting (DASH) program whereas the drone testing is among the two phased program called the Upward falling Payloads/UFP.
This drone can silently lie and wait under the ocean for probably years before being launched.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) began to develop this submarine drone as part of a new strategy of the US military for improving the technology to counter emerging threats.
These unmanned, deployable sensors and systems can virtually stay under deep water for years until the US Navy feels the need for their non-lethal assistance. Once their need arises, the deep ocean nodes can be triggered remotely and brought to the surface of water.
Specifically, DARPA will be checking whether these drones can survive for years and tolerate extreme pressure situations under water before being activated remotely and also, whether they can elevate via a water column and transmit information.
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DARPA’s UFP program is equipped with low-power laser and electronic attach abilities, airborne and sea drones as well as surveillance sensors.
The major portion of this testing exercise will be performed in the Western Pacific. About 50% of the oceans around the world are more than 4km/2.5m deep. This offers sufficient area for storage and concealment so that these drones can stay undetected for prolonged periods and can be recalled at the time of need. The vastness of world’s oceans also allows conducting simultaneous operations from great distances.
According to the deputy director of DARPA, Steven H. walker, “today, the US Navy puts capability on the ocean floor using very capable but fairly expensive submarine platforms. What we’d like to do in this program is preposition capability on the ocean floor and have it available to be triggered [in] real time.”
Ocean-faring drones are already under use of the US Navy, called the Slocum Gliders. These can scan the ocean and easily transmit surveillance and climatic data to ships. These drones operate through ocean currents instead of fuel, which help them shift direction.
A biennial report was released by DARPA in which the department summarized its growing focus on maintaining America’s strategic status globally.
In the report it is stated that “DARPA’s mission and philosophy have held steady for decades, but the world around DARPA has changed dramatically. Those changes include some remarkable and even astonishing scientific and technological advances … at the same time, the world is experiencing some deeply disturbing technical, economic and geopolitical shifts that pose threats to US preeminence and stability.”
Around 59% increment in the UFP budget is sought by DARPA, that is, from $11.9 million to 19 million but President Obama entreated for a slight increase of $3million budget for the fiscal year 2016 for DARPA.
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