(Image via DARPA)
Just by doing what they do, sea life could help U.S. military detect underwater threats.
That’s the idea behind a project being carried out by the biological technology office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which develops new technology for the military.
Going by PALS, short for Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors, the effort is looking to develop sensor systems that tap into the behaviors of marine life in order to detect and track enemy objects. Marine organisms already have the ability to sense and respond to what is happening in their environment; DARPA wants to apply those abilities to surveillance of unmanned underwater vehicles “ranging from small autonomous vessels to large nuclear submarines,” a description states.
On Thursday, Northrop Grumman said it was selected by DARPA to develop biological sensing hardware for the effort. This hardware will focus on expanding range, and using AI to observe patterns in a marine environment to help in the process of classifying the targets that the system will ultimately be looking for.
Development work will be completed at Northrop Grumman’s campus near BWI, while testing will be conducted in Annapolis, Md. and at a Northrop Grumman facility in Florida. Northrop Grumman is partnering with UMBC on the effort along with the company Coda Octopus (Nasdaq: CODA), Duke University and the University of Memphis.
The system could provide alerts based on how the marine life is reacting to a disturbance. To be effective, the system would have to discriminate between an enemy submarine and another object such as a piece of floating debris. Researchers are studying a number of sea creatures through PALS, including snapping shrimp, black sea bass, goliath grouper, bioluminescent organisms and even microorganisms.
“The detection, classification and tracking of undersea objects is a critical military capability and we are excited to work with DARPA to develop this next generation approach,” Mike Meaney, VP of advanced missions at Northrop Grumman, said in a statement.
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