DARPA seeking technology for Arctic exploration
07/06/2012 – The military implications of the melting polar ice caps are to be explored by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, the Pentagon’s research centre. The research comes at a time when the Arctic, increasingly accessible due to global warming, is of growing interest to countries along its boundaries that covet its vast mineral and oil reserves.
After putting out a call for tender in March for sensor systems and drones to monitor the ice cap and possibly identify naval targets above and below the ice, DARPA received some 15 proposals, some from defence giants such as Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Global Aerospace, and others from more specialist companies, including Liquid Robotics and Heat, Light and Sound Research.
The new programme, dubbed Assured Arctic Awareness, is the agency’s first that explicity deals with military operations in the North Pole. The first contracts will be awarded in September.
Given the technological challenges, particularly in terms of physical resistance to extreme cold, but also in terms of supplying energy to sensors and drones in the Arctic and communicating with the unmanned platforms, the research will be very preliminary.
The programme has a modest $4 million budget with which to develop and test the projects that are selected.