DARPA’s Manta Ray Prototype Completes Key In-Water Test

Unlocking the Future of Long-Endurance Autonomous Underwater Vehicles

In a significant leap toward revolutionizing autonomous underwater vehicles, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Manta Ray program successfully completed its first in-water splash test. Conducted off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, the test sought to validate key components such as sensors, hydrodynamic performance, and autonomous capabilities of the glider body. This event takes us one step closer to a new class of long-duration, long-range unmanned underwater vehicles.

“Splashing a vehicle is a major milestone for an undersea program. This test provides important insights into key systems, allows us to validate assumptions and models, and gives us valuable data in preparation for our upcoming full-scale at-sea demonstrations.”

Dr. Kyle Woerner, the Manta Ray program manager at DARPA

Key Developments in the Manta Ray Program

The scaled prototype was developed by PacMar Technologies as part of DARPA’s Manta Ray initiative. It underwent an exhaustive series of tests that included control surface cycling, thruster activation, and buoyancy measurements.

Phase 2 Performers

PacMar Technologies and Northrop Grumman are the key performers in Phase 2 of the Manta Ray program. While PacMar Technologies took the lead with the recent test, Northrop Grumman plans to conduct a test of its prototype in 2024.

Technical Highlights of the Test

Initial in-water testing focused on rigorous cycling of control surfaces, activating thrusters, and ensuring accurate buoyancy levels in real-world conditions. This data will help in optimizing the vehicle’s performance in subsequent trials.

Key Systems Validated

The test confirmed the robustness of the vehicle’s sensors and the hydrodynamic performance of the glider body, elements crucial for long-endurance missions.

Next Steps for the Manta Ray Program

Following this successful test, the focus now shifts to preparing for a more complex, full-scale final demonstration at sea. These proceedings aim to mitigate risks and fortify the vehicle’s capabilities.

  • Sensors: Comprehensive sensor suite
  • Hydrodynamic Performance: Verified through real-world testing
  • Autonomous Features: Advanced algorithms for long-endurance missions
  • Phase 2 Performers: PacMar Technologies, Northrop Grumman
  • Upcoming Tests: Full-scale final demonstration at sea


The in-water test of DARPA’s Manta Ray program is not just a critical milestone for undersea exploration; it also marks the evolution of long-range, autonomous underwater vehicles. With the success of this initial testing, the project is well-positioned to achieve its objectives and contribute significantly to underwater reconnaissance and surveillance.


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