The Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors (PALS) program aims to leverage biology to augment the Department of Defense’s existing, hardware-based maritime monitoring capabilities. The program will tap into marine organisms’ innate abilities to sense and respond to perturbations in their environments and apply those abilities to the detection, characterization, and reporting of manned or unmanned underwater vehicles ranging from small autonomous vessels to large nuclear submarines. Because marine organisms are ubiquitous in their environments, self-replicating, and largely self-sustaining, sensing systems that use marine organisms as their foundation would be discreet, cost-effective, and provide persistent undersea surveillance with a minimal logistical footprint.
The envisioned PALS system would work in two stages. In the first stage, marine organisms would sense the presence of an underwater vehicle (or confounder) in their environment and respond with an output signal or other observable behavior. In the second stage, a man-made detector system would observe, record, and interpret the organisms’ response, and transmit analyzed results to remote end users as distilled alerts. The complete PALS system would also discriminate between target vehicles and other sources of stimuli, such as debris and other marine organisms, to limit the number of false positives. By teaming marine organisms with distributed detection systems, PALS aims to greatly extend the lifetime and range of undersea surveillance capabilities.
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