The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has announced plans to develop an unmanned, submersible ‘mother ship’ to transport and deploy aerial and underwater drones.
The much-vaunted DARPA , which is tasked with expanding technology and science for use in defense projects, is now looking to build an unmanned undersea system that can deploy stealthy drones, both of the flying variety and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), via a large carrier craft.
“The Hydra large UUV is to use modular payloads inside a standardized enclosure to deploy a mix of UAVs and UUVs, depending on the military situation. Hydra will integrate existing and emerging technologies in new ways to create an alternate means of delivering a variety of payloads close to where they’re needed.”
Based on current available technology, drones will be launched under the surface of the water much as submarines currently launch cruise missiles, within encapsulated vehicles that then surface and allow drones to launch into the air.
Though the Hydra project appears to be in its beginning stages, it would seem that much of the technology already in use by the US Navy can be adapted. Similarly, the rate at which the US has deployed increasingly sophisticated iterations of its conventional drones suggests that defense contractors could quickly adapt units to be usable with the new Hydra vessel.
Raytheon’s 6 lb. Switchblade drone, for example, which is 2 feet in length and can be carried in a backpack is already being adapted for launch from submarines. Other smaller, insect-like drones currently being developed by DARPA could all conceivably be useful for the Hydra project as well.
Currently DARPA is also looking into ways to launch and land drones from smaller surface ships, such as the Navy’s Littoral class, under a program dubbed the Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN).
According to DARPA, which announced the Tern program specifications only a few months ago, it is looking to give the US Navy the capabilities to launch drones without the need for large aircraft carriers or land bases.
Currently the Navy is limited to using only a handful of drone models, including the ScanEagle drone, and the Fire Scout unmanned helicopter based on Littoral Combat Ships.
In conjunction with the new Hydra project, it seems that DARPA is looking to modify the American navy into a force capable of deploying versatile unmanned robots throughout the globe.