A Submersible Aircraft, Powered By Ideas

DARPA wants to harness your imagination

DARPA

It sounds like a Hollywood concept, but DARPA wants to make the submersible aircraft a reality -- and they need your help. This week, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency put out a request for designs: they want a vehicle with a 2,000-pound capacity that can cover an area of about 1,000 nautical miles, fly that distance in just eight hours, and -- by the way -- fly both above and below water.

The concept would allow the Department of Defense to create an aircraft that can fly along coastal waters, deliver supplies to warships, and go underwater for reconnaissance missions for short periods of time. DARPA would also like their submersible aircraft to be able to float on the surface for about three days to provide aid to stranded personnel.

Designers have until December 1 at 4:00 pm Eastern to submit proposals. According to the DARPA site, "the proposal needs to outline a conceptual design along with identifying the major technological limitations that need to be overcome in order to maneuver an aircraft underwater. In addition to the conceptual design studies, performers need to outline experiments or computational models that will be used to demonstrate that the major technological limitations can be overcome."

The solicitation number, for those keeping track, is DARPA-BAA-09-06. DARPA is known for proposals that are rather Asimovian in their imaginativeness and hope for a robot-filled future. Last year, the government agency -- which has sponsored two robotic car races -- solicited designers to invent a remote-controllable living cyborg moth that could perform surveillance duties. That project, known as Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems, is now under development, but there has been scant news as to how the moths will be used or how far along the project might be.