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DARPA wants to build a fleet of underwater drones for the Navy

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Aircraft carriers (US Navy/Flickr)
Aircraft carriers (US Navy/Flickr)

DARPA wants to build a fleet of drones stationed beneath ocean waters around the world that can quickly deliver supplies and equipment to Navy personnel near coastlines, on submarines or ships, and even aboard airplanes. The program, called Hydra, is currently in the early planning stages — just last month DARPA held a "proposer's day" at Johns Hopkins University's applied physics laboratory to drum up interest from defense contractors who will bid to bring the idea into reality.

At the meeting, DARPA explained the program's goal was to develop and demonstrate a working network of drones that can both store and transport various payloads underwater — including the sort of supplies and equipment that'd be needed in the event of a natural disaster, InformationWeek said in a report. In the proposer's day documents, the Drones deploying drones agency explains that a "rising number of ungoverned states, piracy, and proliferation of sophisticated defenses" is stretching the Navy's resources thin, which is resulting in fewer special operations and contingency missions. The agency also says it wants Hydra to explore the feasibility of building underwater mothership drones that could launch smaller drones into the air and be used in battle. Drones deploying drones, unmanned and via remote control — this may sound like science fiction, but it's the future of warfare. Similarly, DARPA is working with Lockheed Martin to build drones, for use on land and in the air, that will transport equipment, cars, and even containers full of soldiers.

Like the Lockheed project, Hydra is aiming to use modular, standardized containers to store and transport various cargo. DARPA told InformationWeek that Hydra drones would ideally store containers for weeks or months at a time. The agency has set a deadline of October 22nd for proposals from defense companies on what it would take to pull all this off. DARPA says it wants an actual working demo of the drone network by 2018.