If you ever had nightmares of genetically engineered animals, DARPA aims to make it a reality! Even though the plan is not to make these beautiful marine creatures animals into vicious monsters, the agency still wants to monitor movements of the enemy underwater with the use of sensors attached to the fishes and other marine organisms.
Since the fishes swim around all day and night, the army won't have to monitor the whole area around the clock. In other words, the army is trying to make efficient underwater spies.
The idea of using fishes to monitor underwater movement is the brainchild of the Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors Program. The Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors program or PALS was developed by the Blue-Sky research wing of DARPA.
The decision was made to monitor the activities happening beneath the ocean surface. If this plan goes to full effect, the army hopes to tag any manned or unmanned underwater bogeys.
The process can be easily explained in the following steps:
– DARPA fits marine life with sensors that can sense stimuli.
– When near a manmade underwater vehicle, the fish produces stimuli.
– These stimuli are picked up by the sensor and send to the army.
– The army processes these signals and pinpoints the location of the suspect.
The reason why they turn to aquatic organisms is that having a dedicated hardware working 24/7 in the water is not feasible. But the army noticed that the underwater organisms react in a special way to ships or underwater machines.
Soon, the army realized that they could harness the stimuli that fishes make underwater and convert it into useful data. Not just any useful data, but the kind that can save a country form an impending attack from adversaries.
Should Humans Exercise the Right to Do This?
There are many challenges that are in front of DARPA when it comes to implementing this plan. For starters, the army has to find a way to collect these signals from different animals that are spread out in every part of the ocean.
The second challenge comes in the form of genetics. DARPA proposes that it might have to modify some species in order to make them more susceptible to the sensors. But this requires them to modify the anatomy of the organism.
This process can have very dire consequences on the ecosystem. DARPA has been criticized before for experimenting with marine animals, and with many species on the verge of extinction, one must ask whether this operation should be allowed or not.
DARPA in defense has stated that they will experiment with the animals in a contained environment, but then again the problem arises as these animals ultimately have to be released to the open sea. The result of that is unverified and unknown.
An ocean conservation group known as the Sea Shepard has stated their grief with DARPA as they claim that it’s morally wrong to use a lifeform for such selfish uses. The conservation group has stated that the marine life should be left alone to live their course and no one should interfere with the nature’s way of life.
"It is bad enough that the military regularly conducts exercises that impact large numbers of whales and dolphins, but now they want to actually involve marine mammals in their plans rather than just making them the victims," John Hocevar, Greenpeace USA's oceans campaigner, reports Motherboard.
As of now DARPA is determined to move forward with the operation and has proposed a meeting with interested researchers.
We will get to know more about the project after the impending meeting!