DARPA’s Deep-Sea Sleeper Drones Fly Out of the Ocean

LMSW Cormorant launch
LMSW Cormorant launch. Concept: Lockheed Martin

aviationweek.com | Jan 11, 2013

by Graham Warwick

Arguing it is costly and complex to send large numbers of warships to forward operating areas – and that the energy and logistics needed to deploy lower-cost unmanned systems over oceanic distances limits their usefulness – DARPA has come with another idea.

That idea is to pre-deploy “deep-ocean nodes” in forward areas years in advance. These would be commanded from a safe stand-off distance to launch to the surface and release waterborne or airborne unmanned systems to disperse and provide ISR or “non-lethal effects” over a wide area in contested environments.

The program is called Upward Falling Payload (UFP), and DARPA plans to brief industry at a proposers’ day on Jan 25 in Washington, DC.

The UFP system would, the notice says, comprise three elements: “The ‘payload’ which executes waterborne or airborne applications after being deployed to the surface; the UFP ‘riser’ which provides pressure-tolerant encapsulation and launch (ascent) of the payload; and the communications which triggers the UFP riser to launch.”

DARPA plans a multi-phase effort to demonstrate the UFP systems. Details are sparse, but the program sounds like it could build on previous efforts such as Lockheed Martin Skunk Work’s Cormorant submarine-launched UAV (pictured above), which was cancelled in 2008. Cormorant was to be a high-performance UAV, but there has been other work on the encapsulated, underwater launch of small UAVs.

The research agency has looked at other ways of forward-deploying unmanned systems. One was Rapid Eye, which was a concept to deploy the UAV a long distance at short notice by rocket, releasing it to unfold and power up in the upper atmosphere. Another was Vulture, a large solar-electric UAV designed to stay aloft and ready in the stratosphere almost indefinitely, Neither got to the flying stage.

Lockheed Cormorant unmanned aircraft

One response to “DARPA’s Deep-Sea Sleeper Drones Fly Out of the Ocean

  1. Sounds like more scientific sandbagging.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s