DARPA has announced that it has awarded four contracts for selected companies to advance its Manta Ray program, which aims to demonstrate critical technologies for a new class of long duration, long range unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).
The technologies that DARPA hopes to advance for use in future UUV designs include new energy management and energy harvesting techniques at operationally relevant depths; low-power, high-efficiency propulsion; and new approaches to mitigate biofouling, corrosion, and other material degradation for long duration missions.
The program is also working to develop process improvements, including mission management approaches for extended durations in dynamic maritime environments; unique methods for leveraging existing maritime datasets and new maritime parameters for high-efficiency navigation; and new low-power means of underwater detection and classification of hazards.
The program is split into three phases of development, which will culminate in a fully integrated demonstration vehicle completing an underwater mission in a dynamic, open-ocean environment.
Three of the four selected companies, Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Laboratories, Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation and Navatek, LLC, will focus on development of an integrated solution for Manta Ray technologies. The fourth, Metron, Inc., will work toward critical technology and solutions for undersea energy harvesting at depths necessary for successful UUV operations.
CDR Kyle Woerner, Manta Ray program manager at DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, commented: “The Manta Ray program aims to increase at-sea operational capacity and capabilities for the combatant commander while minimizing disruptions to current operations by remaining independent of crewed vessels and ports once deployed. If successful, this new class of UUVs would allow operational flexibility and relief of workload for both traditional host ships and servicing ports.”