Under The Beautiful Sea

Under_the_sea

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) is looking for a place to stash some new military capabilities.

In a DARPA news release (11 January 2013) it states they are looking to support the navy by placing hibernated deep-sea capsules with payloads at under water locations and at the seafloor strategically around the globe–“almost half of the world’s oceans are more than four kilometers deep” providing “cheap stealth”.

The capsules with carry non-lethal payloads for “operational support and situational awareness”–such as command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR). 

Examples of pre-deployed payloads could be unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and probably, unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). The release specifically states that this is “not a weapons program,” but you could imagine future evolutions of this.

The initial capabilities sought are for “situational awareness, disruption, deception, networking, rescue, or any mission that benefits from being pre-distributed and hidden.” 

The deep-sea capsules will need to survive under extreme pressure and be able to communicate at vast ocean depths to be remotely awoken and recalled when needed. 

Having capabilities available when and where needed–from the bottom of the sea to forward deployment–potentially mitigating some use of costly and non-stealth land bases.

I think this is an exciting idea especially since China was able to demonstrate its anti-satellite missiles in January 2007 in shooting down its own satellite, and I would think that these new underwater pods being sought may be able to provide some alternatives for sensing and communicating in conflicts where satellites are destroyed or disabled and/or other military muscle in not readily available. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Rakel SdPC)

Reaching The Victims Of Disaster

I watched on TV, a congressman from Staten Island talk about the complex response to Hurricane Sandy–in particular, how people whose homes were flooded and were without power could not contact authorities for the help they desperately needed

Going on two weeks after the storm, the Congressman explained how engineers and architects were in turn going door to door to find out who needed help and what could be done–but this was slow and cumbersome. 

Today, I am reading in Bloomberg BusinessWeek (30 Oct. 2012) about an organization that “matches volunteers with people affected by disasters.”‘

Recovers.org does this by establishing local recovery sites for communities (e.g. townname.recover.org) on a subscription model.

By establishing recovery sites to manage relief efforts–without waiting for government or aid groups–recovers.org enables self-sufficiency for communities in the face of disaster.

Moreover, by working at the grassroots level and going straight to neighborhood organizations such as houses or worship or community centers to serve as site administrators–those who know their community and who needs help–Recovers aims to bypass the “redtape.”

The recovery sites they establish, include features for:

– Searchable volunteer database that matches skills of volunteers to needs in the community

– Disaster Dashboard that aids in information sharing between victims and responders

– Donation mechanism where 100% goes directly to the areas affected, rather than to a relief organization

Recovers is the brainchild of someone whose own home was destroyed in a tornado in 2011, and who understands the logistical chaos that can ensue without proper recovery coordination on the ground!

I like the idea of this community Recovery portal for coordinating relief efforts through volunteers and donations, and see this as complementary to the formal FEMA DisasterAssistance.gov site for applying for various forms of assistance and checking claims.

Still though, the fundamental problem exists when you have no power–you can’t logon to recover.org or disasterassistance.gov–you are still cut-off and in need of help. So it looks like we are back to the drawing board on this one again.

As a vision for the future, we need the ability to establish to remote wireless charging generally-speaking for all, but specifically for communities struck by disaster, so they can call out for help and we can actually hear them and provide a timely respond!  😉

>Half Man, Half Machine

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I continue with my infatuation with everything robotics.

Here, the new Second Generation Exoskeleton Robotic Suit, the XOS 2, from Raytheon (Note: this is not a vendor endorsement)

Life imitating art–these robotic suits have been a favorite in Iron Man and the movie Alien.

I can’t forget the scene in Alien when Sigourney Weaver puts on the robotic suit to fight the alien on the shuttle and blasts the alien into deep space.

In only 3-5 years, our military men and women will be wearing these and fighting with super-human capabilities.

The big hang-up with these right now is that they are tethered to a power supply, which limits mobility, but as the video explains, untethered versions will be coming soon.

I can envision commercial versions of these being worn in construction, manufacturing, warehousing–making work easier for people, decreasing job-related injuries and raising productivity.

I can also foresee theme parks where kids (and adults) prance around in mini-versions of these robotic suits and pretend they are superheros.

I also imagine these will make it into law enforcement, fire and rescue, and other emergency management functions where keeping the peace or saving lives can be enabled by robots and exoskeletons too.