In pursuit of advanced underwater robotic systems, DARPA awarded six contracts for its Angler program for the development of deep-sea autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). The program seeks to leverage technology improvements in unmanned area vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) in undersea vehicles capable of operating without human control and without GPS guidance available to UAVs and UGVs. The program is part of a global trend to increase the use of robotic systems in military activities, eventually achieving autonomous operation with the aid of artificial intelligence (AI).
The Angler program is divided into two tracks—A and B. Three companies were awarded contracts for Track A, which is focused on developing an integrated solution for all operating areas of the program: Leidos, Northrop Grumman, and L3-Harris. Contracts for Track B, aimed at developing solutions for the fields of navigation, autonomy, and perception, were awarded to SoarTech, EdgeTech, and Kitware.
This artist’s conception shows a possible result of DARPA’s Angler program for the development of autonomous undersea vehicles that can navigate without GPS guidance. (Courtesy of DARPA)
Along with complementing existing robotic capabilities of UAVs in the air and UGVs on the ground, DARPA expects many benefits from the program, including the capability to achieve long-duration navigation and autonomy without GPS or surface-based communications links. DARPA also hopes the program will provide an autonomous undersea robotic system capable of deep-sea manipulation of objects and perception systems, aiding in the ability to “see” and grasp deep-sea objects even in degraded undersea environments.