A DARPA program is developing autonomous underwater robots that will stalk submarines and continuously report their location and movements. In particular, these robots will look for the quiet diesel submarines that are becoming more common and perceived as a threat to both military and civilian maritime activity. Russian and France are selling these inexpensive ($200-$300 million) submarines like crazy to anyone who wants them and at least 40 nations now own and operate them including tiny countries like Venezuela. From DARPA's news release, program manager Scott Littlefield says:
“Key features and technology for the vessel include advanced software, robust autonomy for safe operations in accordance with maritime laws, and innovative sensors to continuously track the quietest of submarine targets. Our goal is to transition an operational game-changer to the Navy. This should create an asymmetry to our advantage, negating a challenging submarine threat at one-tenth their cost of building subs."
DAPRA calls the robots Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessels (ACTUV). In August DARPA awarded a $58 million, 3 year contract to Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). Yesterday, CMU NREC announced they'd been selected as part of a team assembled by SAIC to build and test the ACTUV robot.