Northrop Begins Work on Biological Underwater Sensing Tool for DARPA

Jeff Brody

Northrop Grumman and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are ready to investigate new sensing capabilities that will use underwater organisms such as shrimp and plankton to perceive threats, National Defense Magazine reported Monday.

Northrop received a contract in April to build the biological sensing technology for DARPA’s Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors program.

PALS will utilize the capability of organisms like bioluminescent plankton and snapping shrimp to identify artificial objects below sea level, and find out if those organisms have different reactions to movements of animals such as large whales and manmade objects such as large submarines.

“The purpose of this program is to explore the use of organisms in the undersea environment that are inherent, that have their own organic sensing capabilities,” said Vern Boyle, vice president of advanced mission systems at Northrop.

He added that biological organisms are expected to have more advanced detection capabilities when it comes to noticing objects or targets underwater compared to manmade sensors.

Northrop plans to integrate artificial intelligence and machine learning to support the sensing tool in collection and analysis of data.

The company is working with Coda Octopus, Duke University, University of Maryland, Baltimore County and University of Memphis under the PALS program.

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