DARPA is soliciting innovative proposals for concepts that use naturally-occurring or engineered marine organisms as sensor elements in a system designed to provide persistent monitoring of manned and unmanned vehicle (M/UUV, e.g., submarines, semi-submersibles and/or unmanned underwater gliders or vessels) movement, particularly in shallow-coastal and littoral marine environments. Specifically, DARPA seeks to identify biological organism responses to M/UUVs and develop technology to characterize and synthesize the resulting behaviors and/or signals for use as input into a detector system.
The integrated technology will comprise the biological organism’s response coupled with detector hardware, software and algorithms to enable alert of the presence and movement of M/UUVs, as well as classification of size and class of the vehicle. Engineered organisms should only be used when naturally occurring organisms cannot improve upon capabilities over state of the art in terms of producing detectable signals with respect to standoff distance, feasible sensing time, and/or M/UUV classification. To the extent researchers do propose solutions that would tune organisms’ reporting mechanisms, the proposers will be responsible for developing appropriate environmental safeguards to support future deployment. However, at no point in the PALS program will DARPA test modified organisms outside of contained, biosecure facilities.
Picture: Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors (PALS) (credit: DARPA)