In February 2018, DARPA (America’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) announced the creation of a new research project to investigate the possibility of using marine organisms for surveillance and the rapid detection of submarine threats. The PALS Project (‘Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors’) aims to harness the abilities of underwater creatures possessing highly sensitive sensors in order to detect movement, odours or silhouettes. These living sensors rely upon magnetic or electrical variations or vibrations.
DARPA’s project to develop cheaper and more effective forms of biological surveillance is based upon many advantages marine organisms are supposed to have, such as their capacity to adapt to changing environments, their natural reproduction and the fact that they require no maintenance.
The Agency has been given four years to run this project. It needs to analyse the behaviour of marine organisms and develop ad hoc technologies and materials, as well as algorithms and software capable of translating the data the organisms receive into signals capable of being understood by human beings. If necessary, DARPA says it is ready to genetically modify certain organisms.