DARPA has selected three performers to develop technologies and solutions for the Underminer program that would surpass current commercial drilling capabilities. Underminer aims to demonstrate the feasibility of rapidly constructing tactical tunnel networks to provide secure logistics infrastructure to pre-position supplies or resupply troops as they move through an area.
Teams from General Electric Research Center and Colorado School of Mines will focus on development of an integrated solution for Underminer technology and operational needs. A third team, Sandia National Laboratories, will conduct technology exploration and integration to address current process and system limitations.
The performers will focus on tunneling approaches, downhole sensing, and operations concepts. Underminer seeks to merge breakthroughs in horizontal drilling, trenchless boring technologies, and robotics to create a set of systems allowing consistent underground access.
“The Underminer program aims to develop and demonstrate tactical uses for rapidly created underground infrastructure in contested environments,” said Dr. Andrew Nuss, the Underminer program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.
“The ability to quickly bore tactical tunnels could benefit contingency operations such as rapid ammunition resupply, rescue missions, or other immediate needs.”
Resulting new technologies could improve future underground infrastructure systems, including, but not limited to, high speed drilling, precise positioning without external aids, obstacle avoidance and sensing, and drilling analytics.