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    March 16, 2012

    DARPA envisions environmentally responsible advanced distributed unmanned sensor system for Arctic

    The Arctic region is poised for greater regional significance as polar ice retreats in coming decades. Ship traffic likely will increase during summer months, and commercial activity focused on the sea floor is expected to grow. The Arctic is largely isolated, vast and environmentally extreme. Remote sensing may offer affordable advantages over traditional methods of monitoring the region—aircraft, satellites or manned ships and submarines—due to the great distances in the Arctic.

    To enable future capability for regional situational awareness and maritime security, DARPA’s Assured Arctic Awareness (AAA) program plans to develop new technologies to monitor the Arctic both above and below the ice, providing year-round situational awareness without the need for forward-basing or human presence. AAA seeks advances in sensor systems and related technologies—such as station-keeping capabilities—that are rugged enough to withstand Arctic conditions, economical to operate and environmentally responsible with minimal impact.

    DARPA seeks proposals that specifically take the perceived negatives of the harsh polar environment and turn them into positives for a suite of unique Arctic capabilities.

    “We’re looking for creative ideas for compelling component technologies and a vision for applying them to monitor the region—whether proposers have expertise in the Arctic or not,” said Andy Coon, DARPA program manager.

    For example, those with experience in unattended ground or maritime sensors, low-temperature electronics, distributed remote sensing technologies, or autonomous operations could contribute to the development of novel technology solutions applicable to the Arctic. DARPA seeks input from these and other technical communities to develop components that address system attributes such as design, mobility and deployment, persistence, survivability, energy management, sensing, and long-haul communications back to the United States. Tests of component proposals will occur, for the most part, in climatic laboratories to assess how well they handle simulated Arctic conditions before taking them to the Arctic for field trial.

    “We seek to increase the diversity of contributors, including environmental research organizations, academia, traditional defense contractors and others,” said John Kamp, DARPA deputy program manager.

    The program does not seek warm latitude solutions to be applied to the Arctic, nor does it seek new platforms for access.

    “The goal is to identify one or two compelling system concepts enabled by new technologies and insights gained from the effort,” Coon said. “Compelling system concepts are those that enhance future maritime security in a cost-effective and responsible manner.”

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