As wireless devices proliferate and the radio spectrum becomes ever more congested, all users have a common interest in radio technologies that can accommodate the largest number of users but still enable priority traffic to get through. The DARPA Spectrum Challenge—a competitive demonstration of robust wireless technologies—recently announced the selection of 15 of 18 semifinalists for $150,000 in prize money. DARPA plans to fill three remaining wildcard slots in August 2013 before the September 2013 semifinals at DARPA’s offices in Arlington, Va.
DARPA-funded researchers recently demonstrated the world’s smallest vacuum pumps. This breakthrough technology may create new national security applications for electronics and sensors that require a vacuum: highly sensitive gas analyzers that can detect chemical or biological attack, extremely accurate laser-cooled chip-scale atomic clocks and microscale vacuum tubes.
Since 2000, more than 2,000 servicemembers have suffered amputated limbs. DARPA’s breakthrough research with advanced prosthetic limbs controlled by brain interfaces is well documented, but such research is currently limited to quadriplegics; practical applications of brain interfaces for amputees are still in the future. In contrast, nerve and muscle interfaces allow amputees to control advanced prosthetics in the near term. Recent demonstrations may give Wounded Warriors hope that they can soon take advantage of these breakthroughs.
DARPA’s Adaptable Sensor System (ADAPT) program aims to transform how unattended sensors are developed for the military by using an original design manufacturer (ODM) process similar to that of the commercial smartphone industry. The goal is to develop low-cost, rapidly updatable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) sensors in less than a year, a marked improvement to the current three-to-eight year development process.
A Soldier carries a 61-pound load while walking in a prototype DARPA Warrior Web system during an independent evaluation by the U.S. Army. Warrior Web seeks to create a soft, lightweight under-suit that would help reduce injuries and fatigue common for Soldiers, who often carry 100-pound loads for extended periods over rough terrain. DARPA envisions Warrior Web augmenting the work of Soldiers’ own muscles to significantly boost endurance, carrying capacity and overall warfighter effectiveness–all while using no more than 100W of power.
Success on the battlefield requires warfighters to know as much as possible about themselves, their surrounding environment and the potential threats around them. Dismounted infantry squads in particular risk surprise and loss of tactical advantage over opponents when information is lacking. While squads use many different technologies to gather and share information, the current piecemeal approach doesn’t provide the integrated, real-time situational awareness needed for individual warfighters and squad leaders to anticipate situations and effectively maneuver to positions of advantage. Providing this capability would provide dismounted squads with overwhelming tactical superiority over potential adversaries similar to what warfighters enjoy at the aircraft, ship and vehicle levels.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate the strategic significance of tactical actions by junior and noncommissioned officers who interact with local populations. This kind of interaction benefits from extensive cultural training, but opportunities for such training are limited by the compression of the Department of Defense’s force-generation cycles. Virtual training simulations provide a partial solution by offering warfighters on-demand, computer-based training, but creating such tools currently requires substantial investments of time, money and skilled personnel.
For more than fifty years, researchers have been studying exactly how aspirin affects the human body. Despite thousands of publications on the topic, our understanding is still incomplete.
In science, many of the most interesting events occur at a scale far smaller than the unaided human eye can see. Medical researchers might realize a range of breakthroughs if they could look deep inside living biological cells, but existing methods for imaging either lack the desired sensitivity and resolution or require conditions that lead to cell death, such as cryogenic temperatures. Recently, however, a team of Harvard University-led researchers working on DARPA’s Quantum-Assisted Sensing and Readout (QuASAR) program demonstrated imaging of magnetic structures inside of living cells. Using equipment operated at room temperature and pressure, the team was able to display detail down to 400 nanometers, which is roughly the size of two measles viruses.
Many military radio frequency (RF) systems, like radar and communication systems, use a class of power amplifiers (PAs) called monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MIMIC). MMIC PAs using gallium nitride (GaN) transistors hold great promise for enhanced RF performance, but operational characteristics are strongly affected by thermal resistance. Much of this resistance comes at the thermal junction where the substrate material of the circuit connects to the GaN transistor. If the junction and substrate have poor thermal properties, temperature will rise and performance will decrease.
Troops operating in forward locations without telecommunication infrastructure often rely on a mobile ad hoc network (MANET) to communicate and share data. The communication devices troops use on foot or in vehicles double as nodes on the mobile network. A constraint with current MANETs is they can only scale to around 50 nodes before network services become ineffective. For the past 20 years, researchers have unsuccessfully used Internet-based concepts in attempts to significantly scale MANETs.
During a recent media briefing, the DARPA Director, Arati Prabhakar, elucidated what the Agency does for our nation, how it does it, how it thinks about its mission in the context of today's realities and the future that its building by creating the next generation of technology to give Defense leaders more options for tomorrow’s missions.
Today, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded a $1 million prize to “Ground Systems”, a 3-person team with members in Ohio, Texas and California, as the winner of the Fast Adaptable Next-Generation Ground Vehicle (FANG) Mobility/Drivetrain Challenge. Team Ground Systems’ final design submission received the highest score when measured against the established requirements for system performance and manufacturability.
The military uses long-wave infrared (LWIR) cameras as thermal imagers to detect humans at night. These cameras are usually mounted on vehicles as they are too large to be carried by a single warfighter and are too expensive for individual deployment. However, DARPA researchers recently demonstrated a new five-micron pixel LWIR camera that could make this class of camera smaller and less expensive.
The U.S. Military relies on the space-based Global Positioning System (GPS) to aid air, land and sea navigation. Like the GPS units in many automobiles today, a simple receiver and some processing power is all that is needed for accurate navigation. But, what if the GPS satellites suddenly became unavailable due to malfunction, enemy action or simple interference, such as driving into a tunnel? Unavailability of GPS would be inconvenient for drivers on the road, but could be disastrous for military missions. DARPA is working to protect against such a scenario, and an emerging solution is much smaller than the navigation instruments in today’s defense systems.
DARPA’s Distributed Agile Submarine Hunting (DASH) Program has tested two complementary prototype systems as part of its Phase 2 development effort. The prototypes demonstrated functional sonar, communications and mobility at deep depths. The successful tests furthered DASH’s goals to apply advances in deep-ocean distributed sonar to help find and track quiet submarines.
Today, at a White House event, the President unveiled a bold new research initiative designed to revolutionize the understanding of the human brain. As part of this initiative, DARPA intends to invest roughly $50 million in 2014 with the goal of understanding the dynamic functions of the brain and demonstrating breakthrough applications based on these insights.
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