A new milestone was achieved in DARPA’s Manta Ray program as PacMar Technologies’ (FKA Martin Defense Group) scaled prototype underwent an in-water splash test off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, September 27.
The test aimed to evaluate and confirm the functionality of sensors, assess the vehicle’s hydrodynamic performance, and analyze the crucial autonomy behaviors exhibited by the glider body.
The overarching objective of the Manta Ray program is to develop Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) capable of independently conducting extended-duration missions, without requiring on-site human logistics support or maintenance.
Initiated in 2020, the agency selected three companies to advance the project: Northrop Grumman, PacMar Technologies, and Lockheed Martin. In Phase 1, the program focused on designing and conducting preliminary tests to explore innovative approaches in critical areas such as energy management, UUV reliability, biofouling and corrosion control, navigation, and undersea obstacle avoidance.
Following the selection of Northrop Grumman and PacMar Technologies as contractors in Phase 2, the program aims to demonstrate technologies for unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) capable of conducting long-range, long-duration underwater missions.
Dr. Kyle Woerner, Manta Ray program manager at DARPA, stated, “Splashing a vehicle is a major milestone for an undersea program. This test provides important insights into key systems, allows us to validate assumptions and models, and yields valuable data in preparation for our upcoming full-scale at-sea demonstrations. We are now a critical step closer to realizing the program’s objectives for a new class of long-endurance autonomous underwater vehicles.”
Northrop Grumman is targeting a prototype test in 2024.