The goal of the project is to come up with machines that can carry payloads autonomously, in long-duration missions in ocean environments. Until this week, none of the companies involved had something relevant about their projects to show.
That changed after Northrop Grumman released a short video (attached below) with its idea at the center of attention. We are not given all that many details about it, but we do get to see its overall shape, and we even have a small glimpse of how the thing could be controlled.
About halfway through the video, we are treated with a virtual Manta Ray propped up on a screen and a guy wearing a virtual reality headset next to it. The voice-over explains how the company is developing “robust autonomy and vehicle control,” while the glove controllers attached to the guy’s hands give us a glimpse into what that could mean.
As per the DARPA-supplied bits of info, the machine will have to launch from a surface vessel and could use available underwater energy to keep its systems running (there are no exact details as to what that actually means).
The materials used to make the militarized Manta Rays should be capable of protecting them against biofouling, corrosion, and other kinds of degradation.
At the time of writing, there is no info on when we could get a real-world prototype of the Manta Ray.