DARPA issues RFI to innovate in underground mapping, navigation

ARLINGTON, Va. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has issued a request for information (RFI) on potential concepts for innovative technology platforms designed to navigate and map urban underground infrastructure, man-made tunnels, natural cave networks, and other subterranean environments.

As underground settings become increasingly relevant to global security and safety, believes that as-yet-untapped technologies have the potential to disruptively and positively impact subterranean and civilian operations.

Of prime interest to DARPA, say officials, are disruptive concepts, approaches, architectures, and technologies that overwhelmingly outperform the currently used ways to manually and laboriously map and search subterranean environments in terms of map resolution, navigation speed, search fidelity, systems cost, and the like. Additionally, the agency says, responses detailing existing models (e.g., appropriate for high-fidelity simulation) of underground terrains, relevant , and/or platforms are also of interest.

“In many ways, subterranean environments have remained an untapped domain in terms of developing breakthrough technologies for national security,” said Timothy Chung, program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO). “We’re looking for audacious ideas on how to overcome the multifaceted challenges these locations present — poor visibility and communications, difficult access, and unpredictable terrain among them — and provide previously unimaginable capabilities for warfighters and emergency responders.”

According to the RFI, DARPA is interested in both integrated solutions as well as novel component technologies capable of on-site mapping and navigating rugged and dynamic terrains; sensors and computation for perception in extreme conditions, such as low light or obscured settings; distributed information-sharing in degraded communications environments, particularly in unknown structural or geological surroundings; and advanced autonomous capabilities and platform design innovations enabling extended operations with minimal human intervention.

Additionally, DARPA would like the responses to highlight unique and revolutionary capabilities regarding subterranean environments, such as in the areas of autonomy, perception, networking, and mobility. All capable sources — including, but not limited to, private or public companies, individuals, universities, university-affiliated research centers, not-for-profit research institutions, foreign entities, and U.S. government-sponsored laboratories — are invited to submit. Full RFI details are available on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

Image: DARPA

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