DARPA Looks for Submersible Aircraft Idea

Perhaps the mere fact that the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Strategic Technology Office needs to look around for ideas for this project just goes to show the extremely difficult or almost impossible nature of it. DARPA has called for assistance from the general public in designing a submersible aircraft that fits their standards.

Though somewhat futuristic, the concept seems simple enough – an aircraft that can fly and travel underwater. So why do they need help? Well, it turns out that DARPA not only wants the aircraft to cover large distances in a short period of time, it also has to be capable of carrying a crew of eight and a 2 000 lb payload! The design will be required to cover 1 850 km by air, 185 km by sea or 22 km underwater in just eight hours and the payload and crew-size means that it can’t be a small little gimmick. What about a power source? So far it has been suggested that an old-school snorkel may be the best way to provide air for the aircraft’s power plant while it is submerged. Other possible power sources include dilithium crystal or nuclear power.

Clearly designing this aircraft is no easy task, since the requirements for an airplane and a submarine are in direct opposition to each other. Trying to merge the two concepts will prove to be incredibly difficult and any designs submitted are to not only identify the technological limitations of the proposed aircraft, but should come complete with proof that the concept is feasible. This project comes with a warning – so far attempts to demonstrate a vehicle with these capacities have been unsuccessful. In addition to flying 1000 nautical miles in eight hours above, on and below water, the aircraft will need to be able to float on water for about three days so that it can be used to provide assistance to stranded personnel. If this sounds like the sort of challenge that gets your engine revved, make a note that proposals will have to be submitted by December 1 at 4:00 pm Eastern time.