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U.S. to Test Seabed Resupply Systems by 2016

by Bryant Jordan on April 21, 2014

Upward Falling Payloads 2The Pentagon wants to set up a network of seafloor-bedded “nodes” that would include anything from supplies to weaponry to be called to the surface for military action when needed.

The Defense Department could begin field testing its “Upward Falling Payloads” anytime after October, according to the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency.

The system will be made up of a payload – a surveillance or communications system, for example – that goes into action once it reaches the surface in its “riser,” an ocean-resting pod and launch system, and the communications link that will trigger the “riser” to launch, according to DARPA.

During the first phase of the project, DARPA funded more than 10 study and design efforts, the agency’s program manager for UPF said on the DARPA’s science blog earlier this month. The first part also dealt with different kinds of mission payloads, Andy Coon said.

“We really learned about how the pieces come together, and built a community of developers to think differently about unmanned distributed solutions for the maritime domain,” he said.

The seafloor-based node – in which the UFP will live until summoned to the surface – has to survive at depths greater than 6 kilometers, according to the DARPA announcement. It also must last up to five years and operate within two hours after a command to launch.

They also have to be able to report on their “health status,” the DARPA announcement states, so that defense officials always know if they’re functioning normally.

Phase 2 testing is slated for the first half of fiscal year 2015 through the first quarter of 2016.

“These tests will include one research vessel shared by multiple performers, and should be assumed as [a U.S. government ship],” DARPA says. Though the likely venue will be in the Western Pacific, there could also be demonstration off Hawaii, in the Atlantic or other areas, depending on the payload application being tested or cost-effectiveness.

The third phase, which will include thorough testing of all key systems and subsystems, is scheduled for the third quarter of FY2017, according to the DARPA announcement.

Upward Falling Payload

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