DARPA Is Building a Submarine Mothership to Launch Drones From the Sea

Drones are nuts. After all, they're robotic war machines that kill on command. But the mad scientists at DARPA are working on something that's even more nuts: a submarine that can carry an assortment of drones around the sea and launch them into the air. That's nuts.

This drone mothership—that's DARPA's word not ours—is a work in progress. The agency just released a bundle of new details about what they're building, and it sure sounds like quite the machine. The so-called Hydra program will build a submarine that can carry unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) covertly into battle zones. Once there, the real magic begins. DARPA explains the plan in a press release:

The air vehicle payload that will be ejected from the mothership, float to the surface, launch, fly a minimum range, and conduct several different types of missions.

Undersea payloads will launch, dock, and recharge from the mothership and collect intelligence information. After their missions they will download information to the mothership, which will communicate it to command authorities.

Sounds kind of like a James Bond movie, doesn't it? Well that's DARPA's specialty. This is the agency that brought us everything from a battery-powered human exoskeleton to the robotic cheetah that can run faster than Usain Bolt. And who could forget Atlas, the humanoid, DARPA-funded robot without a head that can stand on one leg?

We don't yet know what the Hydra project will look like when it's completed, but DARPA's moving forward fast with the plan. The next stage of development kicks off on August 5th when the agency will conduct industry briefings and field proposals. Until then, relish these numbered days of a world without a drone mothership. Because if you thought drones were nuts when they fly around one at a time, just wait 'til you see a fleet of them explode out of the ocean and scream towards the horizon. That'll be really nuts. [DARPA]

Image via AP