The U.S. Department of Defense plans to begin testing for an Upward Falling Payload program anytime after October of this year. Defense Tech reported that this plan involves setting up a network of "nodes" planted on ocean floors that hold military resources. Military teams would be able to call supplies and weaponry to the surface whenever necessary. The UFP program aims to mitigate cost barriers that limit the Navy's efficiency.

A three-phase approach
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the organization behind the plan, had laid out a three-phase strategy for implementing the deep-sea payload system. According to a DARPA news release, the group has already completed the first stage, which entailed funding more than 10 study and design efforts dedicated to long-range communications, payload launch and deep-ocean high-pressure containment.

"In this first phase, we really learned about how the pieces come together, and built a community of developers to think differently about unmanned distributed solutions for the maritime domain," said Andy Coon, program manager DARPA, as quoted in a news release from the organization. "The trick is to show how these systems offer lower-cost alternatives to traditional approaches, and that they scale well to large open-ocean areas."

During phase two, DARPA will use research from the first stage to create prototype UFP systems. The organization is seeking assistance from experts on technologies like small sensors, expendable unmanned systems and long-endurance mechanical and electrical systems. According to Defense Tech, testing for this phase is scheduled to begin in the first half of fiscal year 2015, and the Defense Department is expected to conduct demonstrations in the western Pacific Ocean. However, the agency could also test prototype systems near Hawaii or in the Atlantic Ocean, depending on factors like cost-effectiveness and the type of application being tested.

Phase three, which is slated for the the third quarter of fiscal year 2017, involves the comprehensive testing of all core systems and subsystems. 

Challenges to overcome
DARPA noted that in order to be effective, the UFP infrastructure must be able to endure extreme water pressure for up to five years. The system should allow servicemembers to trigger the deployment of supplies from standoff commands. Additionally, engineers must develop nodes that are capable of sending reports on their health status to defense officials. If the UFP program meets DARPA's expectations, it will provide a more cost-effective means of providing Navy resources than today's existing methods.