The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is hoping to develop a new unmanned submersible carrier vehicle called Hydra that would be able to launch small unmanned aircraft from underwater. The design would also be able to act as a carrier vehicle for releasing unmanned surface and underwater vehicles.

"Hydra will integrate existing and emerging technologies in new ways to create an alternate means of delivering a variety of payloads close to the point of use," a DARPA document reads. "Technologies are intended to be adaptable to multiple delivery options, including airborne, surface and subsurface."

DARPA hopes to develop this unmanned underwater carrier vessel in three distinct phases. Initially, it hopes to define concepts, develop component capabilities and reduce subsystem risks by awarding one or possibly more developmental contracts for each of five technology areas. Subsequent phases will involve the completion of development, field testing of various components, and the integration of those components into a full system. Operational demonstrations would then be conducted, the agency says.

The technical areas include developing a modular enclosure to house unmanned vehicles, plus air vehicle and underwater payloads. Other areas include supporting technologies and an overall concept of operations for the entire system.

"DARPA will seek innovative proposals under this area to develop concepts of operation or conduct architecture studies related to the overall Hydra system," the agency says. "Examples include the development of innovative concepts for Hydra deployment and retrieval using subsurface craft and tactical air transport aircraft; identification of preferred command, control and communications architectures which most seamlessly integrate into existing battle management systems," and more.

As part of the project, DARPA will seek concepts for housing an air vehicle component. "The air vehicle payload is envisioned to consist of individually encapsulated air vehicles within a module that fits into the standard Hydra modular enclosure," DARPA says. "The air vehicle payload relies on the Hydra modular enclosure to provide a stable undersea platform, communications while submerged, and buoyancy."

The preliminary concept of operation for the encapsulated unmanned aircraft would see it ejected from the module, then floating to the surface to lift off into the air. The aircraft would have to fly out to a minimum specified range and conduct one or more classified mission types, the agency says. It is unclear exactly how DARPA wants the air vehicle to be recovered, but it says it hopes to "leverage" an existing aircraft for the project.

 ScanEagle - Boeing


The US military currently uses the ship-launched ScanEagle for maritime surveillance

DARPA is also seeking concepts for an unmanned underwater vehicle as part of the Hydra effort. Some of the technologies for that part of the project would involve novel battery recharging technologies. The agency will hold a Hydra proposer's day on 5 August ahead of a planned broad agency announcement for the project. The registration deadline is 29 July.

Source: Flight International