Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyAbout UsHistory and Timeline

Where the Future Becomes Now

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency was created with a national sense of urgency in February 1958 amidst one of the most dramatic moments in the history of the Cold War and the already-accelerating pace of technology. In the months preceding the official authorization for the agency’s creation, Department of Defense Directive Number 5105.15, the Soviet Union had launched an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), the world’s first satellite, Sputnik 1, and the world’s second satellite, Sputnik II… More

Quantum Key Distribution Network
2004
As part of the then three-year-old Quantum Information Science and Technology (QuIST) program, DARPA-funded researchers established the first so-called quantum key distribution network, a data-encryption framework for protecting a fiber-optic loop that connects facilities at Harvard University, Boston University, and the office of BBN Technologies in Cambridge, Mass.
The Grand Challenge
2004
DARPA ran its pathbreaking Grand Challenge with the goal of spurring on American ingenuity to accelerate the development of autonomous vehicle technologies that could be applied to military requirements. No team entry successfully completed the designated DARPA Grand Challenge route from Barstow, CA, to Primm, NV, on March 13, 2004. The event offered a $1 million prize to the winner from among 15 finalists that emerged from a qualifying round at the California Speedway, but the prize went unclaimed as no vehicles were able to complete the difficult desert route.
A-160
2005
DARPA paved the way for extended-range unmanned vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) operations by sponsoring development of another Hummingbird: the A-160, a long-endurance, high-speed unmanned helicopter that flew for 18.7 hours and in 2008 set a world record for endurance in its weight class. The A-160 was part of research pursued by DARPA and the Services to produce a range of autonomous platforms that could team with people to create a more capable, agile, and cost-effective force.
Big Dog
2005
With its sights on robotic pack mules to help warfighter in operations, DARPA initiated a program that yielded BigDog. The robot’s on-board computer controls locomotion, processes sensors, and handles communications with the user. BigDog’s control system keeps it balanced, manages locomotion on a wide variety of terrain, and does navigation. Sensors for locomotion include joint position, joint force, ground contact, ground load, a gyroscope, LIDAR, and a stereo vision system. Other sensors focus on the internal state of BigDog, monitoring the hydraulic pressure, oil temperature, engine functions, battery charge, and others.
Chip-Scale Atomic Clock
2005
The Chip-Scale Atomic Clock (CSAC) program created ultra-miniaturized, low-power, atomic time and frequency reference units. The development of CSAC enabled ultra-miniaturized and ultra-low power atomic clocks for high-security Ultra High Frequency (UHF) communication and jam-resistant GPS receivers.
| History | PNT |
MiTex
2006
Boosted into geosynchronous orbit on June 21, 2006 aboard a Delta II rocket The Microsatellite Technology Experiment (MiTEx) technology demonstration investigated and demonstrated advanced high-payoff technologies from a variety of potential candidates, including lightweight power and propulsion systems, avionics, structures, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components, advanced communications, and on-orbit software environments.
| History | Space |
Revolutionizing Prosthetics
2006
The LUKE arm was developed by inventor Dean Kamen and his colleagues at DEKA Research & Development Corp. as part of DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program with additional funding from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. Launched in 2006, DARPA’s program began with a radical goal: develop an advanced electromechanical prosthetic upper limb with near-natural control that would dramatically enhance independence and quality of life for amputees. Working with DARPA and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Rehabilitation Research and Development Service under a federal interagency agreement, DEKA spent years directly engaged with amputees in a number of studies, including VA studies, to better understand how the intersection of biology and engineering could ultimately lead to advanced prosthetic technologies. Mobius Bionics was launched in July 2016 to bring the LUKE arm to market. At a ceremony in New York in 2017, two veterans living with arm amputations became the first recipients of a new generation of prosthetic limb that promises them unprecedented, near-natural arm and hand motion.
Refueling
2007
In an in-air demonstration in 2007, DARPA teamed up with NASA to show that high-performance aircraft can easily perform automated refueling from conventional tankers. The 2007 demonstration was not entirely automated, however: a pilot was on board to set conditions and monitor safety during autonomous refueling operations.