Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Monday, January 30, 2023

DARPA to Create Underwater Drone Nests 

DARPA, the Pentagon’s research agency, plans on creating underwater platforms that can be deployed at a moment’s notice. Known as “Hydra,” named after the serpent-like creature with many heads from Greek mythology, the undersea network of unmanned platforms will allow the U.S. Navy to not only respond to threats more quickly than before, but in a way that is much more cost efficient.

According to DARPA, Hydra ”represents a cost effective way to add undersea capacity that can be tailored to support each mission.” This way, Navy vessels could have access to anything from communications to emergency equipment no matter what they already have on board.

The program will provide a delivery mechanism for inserting unmanned air, land, and underwater vehicles into operational environments. With Hydra’s communications suite, unmanned platforms can be controlled remotely and manned platforms can be assisted.

“The climate of budget austerity runs up against an uncertain security environment that includes natural disasters, piracy, ungoverned states, and the proliferation of sophisticated defense technologies,” said Scott Littlefield, DARPA program manager. “An unmanned technology infrastructure staged below the oceans’ surface could relieve some of that resource strain and expand military capabilities in this increasingly challenging space.”

Once the system has been put in place, the goal is to allow it to communicate with both manned and unmanned platforms for air, surface, and water operations. Hydra will also be highly mobile so that it can be deployed for weeks or months at a time.

“By separating capabilities from the platforms that deliver them, Hydra would enable naval forces to deliver those capabilities much faster and more cost-effectively wherever needed,” said Littlefield. “It is envisioned to work across air, underwater, and surface operations, enabling all three to perform their missions better.”

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