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U.S. DARPA has selected four companies for a program seeking to demonstrate critical technologies for a new class of unmanned underwater vehicles. The Manta Ray Program aims to demonstrate critical technologies for a new class of long duration, long range, payload-capable unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).

DARPA has commisioned the teams of Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Laboratories, Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation and Navatek, LLC to focus on development of an integrated solution for Manta Ray technology and operational areas.

The fourth company, Metron, Inc., will work toward critical technology and solutions specific to the field of undersea energy harvesting techniques at depths necessary for successful operations.

“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,” said CDR Kyle Woerner, Manta Ray program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “If successful, this new class of UUVs would allow operational flexibility and relief of workload for both traditional host ships and servicing ports.”

The Manta Ray program has the objective to advance key technologies that will benefit future UUV designs to 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 aims to achieve process improvements, including mission management approaches for extended durations while accounting for 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.

Julian Hoffmann