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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Arctic Sea Routes: DARPA seeks monitoring systems

NOAA photo
As ice levels thin at the northernmost latitudes, the concern of how to keep an eye on the flow of sea traffic in the area grows. There are plans being floated to monitor the area for several reasons, including maritime security, as reported by Information Week as DARPA Pursues Security As Polar Ice Caps Melt:
The Department of Defense (DOD) is exploring new sensor technology to remotely monitor the Arctic region in anticipation of more shipping activity in the area as polar ice caps continue to melt.

Through the Assured Arctic Awareness (AAA) program, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is looking into environmentally-friendly ways to monitor the Arctic region both above and below the ice without the need for more expensive means of monitoring--such as aircraft, satellites, or manned ships and submarines--of the largely remote region, according to the agency.
DARPA's press release states:
The Arctic region is poised for greater regional significance as polar ice retreats in coming decades. Ship traffic likely will increase during summer months, and commercial activity focused on the sea floor is expected to grow. The Arctic is largely isolated, vast and environmentally extreme. Remote sensing may offer affordable advantages over traditional methods of monitoring the region—aircraft, satellites or manned ships and submarines—due to the great distances in the Arctic.
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DARPA seeks proposals that specifically take the perceived negatives of the harsh polar environment and turn them into positives for a suite of unique Arctic capabilities.

“We’re looking for creative ideas for compelling component technologies and a vision for applying them to monitor the region—whether proposers have expertise in the Arctic or not,” said Andy Coon, DARPA program manager.

Probably not what DARPA wants - the two boy kayak observation team.
For example, those with experience in unattended ground or maritime sensors, low-temperature electronics, distributed remote sensing technologies, or autonomous operations could contribute to the development of novel technology solutions applicable to the Arctic. DARPA seeks input from these and other technical communities to develop components that address system attributes such as design, mobility and deployment, persistence, survivability, energy management, sensing, and long-haul communications back to the United States. Tests of component proposals will occur, for the most part, in climatic laboratories to assess how well they handle simulated Arctic conditions before taking them to the Arctic for field trial.

“We seek to increase the diversity of contributors, including environmental research organizations, academia, traditional defense contractors and others,” said John Kamp, DARPA deputy program manager.

The program does not seek warm latitude solutions to be applied to the Arctic, nor does it seek new platforms for access.

“The goal is to identify one or two compelling system concepts enabled by new technologies and insights gained from the effort,” Coon said. “Compelling system concepts are those that enhance future maritime security in a cost-effective and responsible manner.”
Detail on how to apply at the DARPA link above.

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