DARPA wants advanced sensors to watch over growing hot spot: The Artic

Rapidly deployable and rugged are main requirements for DARPA sensors

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The U.S. side of the Niagara Falls, pictured here,  looks a bit like the Artic this year.

Credit: Reuters

The Artic Circle pretty much has been a damn cold, desolate place but no so anymore what with the military’s increased attention and commercial growing prospects.

Those are the main reasons the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency cites for wanting to build an advanced generation of sensors capable of transmitting data on air, surface and/or undersea activities above the Arctic Circle for at least 30 days.

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“The challenges of operations in the high Arctic are significant: there is little fixed infrastructure North of the Arctic Circle to support sustained operations and system designs must satisfy requirements for system durability and ruggedness in the harsh Arctic environment, DARPA states.

“Unmanned systems are developing the range and environmental performance necessary for Arctic operation. Commercial electronics provide low-cost and energy-efficient sensing systems capable of low temperature operation. Communications technologies such as Iridium and Argos enable data relay from remote Arctic systems to manned analysis and observing centers,” DARPA stated. The agency says it wants to utilize these and other advancements for the new sensors.

The sensor project is not DARPA’s first foray into the Artic. In 2012 it announced the Assured Artic Awareness project saying growth in activity will increase the strategic significance of the region and will drive a need to ensure stability through effective regional monitoring

From DARPA: "Remote distributed sensing is a way to provide stand-off situation awareness in the Arctic, and is an emphasis for the Assured Artic 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 bases. 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."

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