DARPA Working to Develop Technologies that Enable them to better Navigate Subterranean Environments

DARPA has issued a Request for Information to augment its understanding of state-of-the-art technologies that could enable future systems to rapidly map and navigate unknown complex subterranean environments to locate objects of interest, e.g., trapped survivors, without harming humans. 

Subterranean warfare, whether involving human-made tunnels, underground urban infrastructure, or natural cave networks, has been an element of U.S. military operations from World War II in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. As the military intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities continue to grow ubiquitous, adversaries are increasingly heading underground to circumvent detection. Rapid global urbanization is accelerating the frequency and complexity of dangerous subterranean environments faced not just by warfighters, but also by emergency responders performing search-and-rescue missions underground; in collapsed mines, for instance, or municipal or urban settings wrecked by natural disaster.

As underground settings become increasingly relevant to global security and safety, innovative and enhanced technologies have the potential to disruptively and positively impact subterranean military and civilian operations.In many ways, subterranean environments have remained an untapped domain in terms of developing breakthrough technologies for national security. The main concern is to overcome the multi-faceted challenges such as poor visibility and communications, difficult access, and unpredictable terrain among them. 

DARPA is interested in both integrated solutions as well as novel component technologies capable of in-situ mapping and navigating rugged and dynamic terrains; sensors and computation for perception in austere conditions, such as low-light or obscured settings. Responses should highlight unique and revolutionary capabilities as they pertain to subterranean environments, such as in technology focus areas of autonomy, perception, networking, and mobility. Click here for more information.