The Arctic is physically vast, with transpolar distances of over two thousand nautical miles, and typical transit distances from the U.S. of over one thousand miles. Remote distributed sensing is a way to provide stand-off situation awareness in the Arctic, and is an emphasis for the program.
Distributed and unmanned systems offer the advantage of extensive footprints as well as proximity, without the potential system costs of large manned platforms and basing. As with the development of any remote distributed system, developers will need to overcome the technical challenges of persistence, survivability, energy management, sensing, mobility, delivery, and communications. Such endeavors are further challenged by the extreme meteorological and environmental conditions of the Arctic. For example: polar ice isolates underwater activities from overhead assets; extensive darkness and cloud cover limit electro-optical imaging; instability in the ionosphere disrupts radiofrequency propagation; geosynchronous satellites access can fail at latitudes above 70 degrees N; and temperatures can fall below -65 degrees C affecting hardware designs.
A program premise is that the unique physical attributes and emergent environmental trends in the Arctic offer opportunities to tailor new technology that otherwise limits traditional approaches. Proposals that demonstrate creative and surprising solutions that support this premise are of particular interest. This is best clarified by comparing proposed technology to more traditional approaches in terms of performance and affordability.
The focus of this BAA is to develop a rich set of technology options supportive of Arctic situation awareness, and establish their technical feasibility. The government will host at least two field demonstrations with Arctic-like conditions to support feasibility demonstrations. For these field demonstrations, facility usage costs will be paid by DARPA. Proposals should describe requirements for government-furnished equipment, information, and services needed to conduct engineering and field tests. To the extent measurements are needed in the Arctic to support feasibility, proposals should provide rational as to why climactic laboratories cannot provide adequate results. DARPA support for an Arctic field test will depend on the rational and demand across efforts for such testing as well as cost.
Technical Area One: Under-ice awareness. Proposed solutions in this area should leverage unique Arctic properties (e.g., under-ice acoustic propagation, noise, and non-acoustic properties) to enable distributed unmanned autonomous systems to find and hold targets underwater. Primary interest lies in anti-submarine warfare (ASW), however innovative approaches for the detection of structures, bathymetry, and other measurements where compelling cases are made for their strategic value will be considered.
Technical Area Two: Surface awareness. Proposed technologies in this area will leverage unique Arctic properties (e.g., electromagnetic and optical phenomena, ice distributions within a coverage area, the narrow passageways for shipping traffic, and other unique attributes) to enable distributed unmanned autonomous systems to find and hold surface contacts in the marginal ice zone and summer ice-free waters. Primary interest lies in surface ship and ice tracking, however, this technical area will include innovative approaches for enabling technologies such as networking, data exfiltration, the detection of other activity and conditions of concern where compelling cases are made for their strategic value.