Hollywood films often show alien ships or giant monsters rising from the ocean depths to threaten humanity’s existence. The U.S. military envisions a more realistic scenario of hiding robotic drones, sensors or decoys on the ocean floor so that they can rise to the occasion when needed.
The idea of hiding sneaky spy technologies beneath the waves comes from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The agency described its Upward Falling Payloads program as an effort to hide underwater capsules that could be triggered remotely to activate, float to the surface and release their payloads of sensor buoys or even flying drones.
“The concealment of the sea also provides opportunity to surprise maritime targets from below, while its vastness provides opportunity to simultaneously operate across great distances,” DARPA said in a broad agency announcement on Jan. 11.
Earth’s oceans provide plenty of hiding places for robots to engage in some “cheap stealth” — about 50 percent of the oceans reach depths deeper than 2.5 miles (4 kilometers). DARPA’s ideal payload would fit within a spherical capsule 17 inches in diameter or a cylinder about 5 inches in diameter and 36 inches in length.