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

ICECool
2012
Intrachip/Interchip Enhanced Cooling (ICECool) The increased density of electronic components and subsystems in military electronic systems exacerbates the thermal management challenges facing engineers. The military platforms that host these systems often cannot physically accommodate the large cooling systems needed for thermal management, meaning that heat can be a limiting factor for performance of electronics and embedded computers.
Blast Gauge
2013
Under a DARPA contract, the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) developed the Blast Gauge, a small device worn by warfighters to measure blast exposure and cue medics for initial response. This phase of the project took just 11 months with a total development cost of approximately $1 million. As field tests began, and design refinement and larger production quantities were required, RIT researchers formed BlackBox Biometrics, a small business to commercialize and manufacture the Blast Gauges.
Atlas Robot
2013

The Atlas disaster-response robot made its public debut on July 11, 2013. In its original form, the 6’2”, 330-lb. humanoid robot—developed for DARPA by Boston Dynamics of Waltham, Mass.—was capable of a range of natural movements. A tether connected the robot to both an off-board power supply and computer through which a human operator issued commands.

Legged Squad Support System (LS3)
2013
To help alleviate physical weight on troops, DARPA developed a four-legged robot, the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), to integrate with squads of Marines or Soldiers. LS3 demonstrated that a highly mobile, semi-autonomous legged robot could carry 400 lbs of a squad’s load, follow squad members through rugged terrain and interact with troops in a natural way, similar to a trained animal and its handler.
STARnet Established
2013
DARPA and key companies from the semiconductor and defense industries established the Semiconductor Technology Advanced Research Network, or STARnet. This effort, which lasted until 2017 when it was superseded by a similar program known as JUMP, supported large university communities to look beyond the current evolutionary directions in microelectronics research and development.
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World Record Silicon-based Millimeter-wave Power Amplifiers
2013
Two set of DARPA performers—one team with researchers from the University of Southern California and Columbia University and another with researchers from MIT and Carnegie Mellon University—achieved world-record power output levels using silicon-based technologies for millimeter-wave power amplifiers. RF power amplifiers are used in communications and sensor systems to boost power levels for more reliable transmission of signals over greater distances.
Biological Technologies Office Opens
2014
DARPA in 2014 created its Biological Technologies Office (BTO), which has enabled a new level of momentum for DARPA’s portfolio of innovative, biology-based programs. The impetus for creating this new office was the maturation of genetic technologies and bioinformatics, in conjunction with breakthroughs in neuroscience, immunology, and related biomedical fields.
EXACTO
2014
DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program conducted the first successful live-fire tests demonstrating in-flight guidance of .50-caliber bullets. EXACTO rounds maneuvered in flight to hit targets that were offset from where the sniper rifle was aimed. EXACTO’s specially designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets during flight by compensating for weather, wind, target movement, and other factors that could impede successful hits.
Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM)
2014
The Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), which DARPA developed in partnership with the U. S. Navy and U.S, Air Force, becomes a program of record for the Navy. LRASM is anticipated to play a significant role in ensuring military access to operate in both open-ocean and littoral environments due to its enhanced ability to discriminate between targets and conduct tactical engagements from extended ranges. With the growth of maritime threats in anti-access/area denial (A2AD) environments, this semi-autonomous, air-launched anti-ship missile promises to reduce dependence on external platforms and network links in order to penetrate sophisticated enemy air-defense systems.
Memex
2014
DARPA rolled out its Memex program to move forward the state of the art in content indexing and web searching on the Internet. Over the next few years, the Memex program yielded new tools that enabled quick and thorough organization of a subset of the Internet, leading to more comprehensive and relevant domain-specific indexing of web content and domain-specific search capabilities. Memex quickly proved its value in efforts to counter human trafficking.
Spectrum
2014

On March 19-20, 2014, 15 teams from around the United States participated in the final event of the DARPA Spectrum Challenge, a competition designed to encourage development of programmable radios that can deliver high-priority transmissions in congested and contested spectrum environments.

CHIKV Challenge
2015
To accelerate the development of new infectious disease forecasting methods, DARPA launched its CHIKV Challenge. The chikungunya virus (CHIKV) first appeared in the Americas in 2013 but was quickly spreading and by mid-2015, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) had tallied close to 1.4 million suspected cases and more than 33,000 confirmed. Spread by mosquitoes, chikungunya is rarely fatal but can cause debilitating joint and muscle pain, fever, nausea, fatigue, and rash, and poses a growing public health and national security risk.
DARPA Robotics Challenge
2015
In June 2015, the finale of the DARPA Robotics Challenge, a competition of robot systems and software teams vying to develop robots capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters, unfolded at the Fairplex in Pomona, Calif.
Cyber Grand Challenge
2016
The 21st century has brought with it the ever more urgent need for automated, scalable, machine-speed vulnerability detection and patching as more and more systems—from household appliances to major military platforms—get connected to, and become dependent upon, the internet. Finding and countering bugs, hacks, and other cyber infection threats have effectively been artisanal: professional bug hunters, security coders, and other security pros work endless hours, searching millions of lines of code to find and fix vulnerabilities that those with ulterior motives can exploit. This is a sluggish process that can no longer can keep pace with the relentless stream of threats.
SIGMA
2016
The goal of the SIGMA program, which began in 2014, was to develop and test low-cost, high-efficiency radiation sensors that detect gamma and neutron radiation and to network them via smartphones. This would a distributed detection network that would provide city, state, and federal officials with real-time awareness of potential nuclear and radiological threats such as dirty bombs, which combine conventional explosives and radioactive material to increase their disruptive potential.
SST Transition
2016
At a mountaintop event in New Mexico on October 18, 2016, DARPA handed off ownership its Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) from an Agency-led design and construction program to ownership and operation by U.S. Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), which operate the telescope in Australia jointly with the Australian government.
DARPA Bay Area Software Defined Radio Hackfest
2017
The increased use of wireless and internet-enabled devices—from smartphones and computers to cars and home appliances—and the data they generate are creating opportunities and challenges for the defense and commercial sectors. To help explore and better understand the complex relationship created by the intersection of physical and cyber technology within the ever more congested electromagnetic spectrum, DARPA embarked on a year-long effort to build an engaged community of engineers and scientists operating within relevant technical areas.
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DARPA Electronics Resurgence Initiative
2017
On June 1, 2017, the DARPA Microsystems Technology Office (MTO) announced a new Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI) to ensure far-reaching improvements in electronics performance well beyond the limits of traditional scaling by way of miniaturizing transistors and other components and increasing the complexity of component integration.
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JUMP
2017
In collaboration with the non-profit Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC), DARPA recruited a consortium of cost-sharing industry partners to fund and oversee the Joint University Microelectronics Program (JUMP). Like a related predecessor program, STARnet, JUMP consists of a half-dozen university-based research centers, each dedicated to a different technology theme and collectively supporting fundamental microelectronics research of hundreds of professional scientists and their students. The goal is to catalyze innovations for increasing the performance, efficiency, and overall capabilities of broad classes of electronics systems for both commercial and military applications.
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Service Academies Swarm Challenge
2017
To help make effective swarm tactics with small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and other robots a reality, DARPA planned and organized the Service Academies Swarm Challenge, a collaboration between the Agency and the three U.S. military Service academies—the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the U.S. Air Force Academy. An experiment at its heart, the research effort was designed to encourage students to develop innovative offensive and defensive tactics for swarms of small UAVs.
ACTUV Christening
2018
On January 25, 2018, DARPA took its Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program to one of the best finish lines the Agency knows of—an official transfer of a technology to a follow-on steward of development or to an end user in the field. In this case, following a period of open-water tests of the program’s demonstration vessel—dubbed “Sea Hunter”—to the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the latter organization officially took over responsibility of developing the revolutionary prototype vehicle as the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV).
Spectrum Collaboration Challenge (SC2)
2019

In 2016, DARPA rolled out a new Grand Challenge, the Spectrum Collaboration Challenge (SC2), with the goal of ensuring that the exponentially growing number of military and civilian wireless devices have ready access to increasingly crowded electromagnetic spectrum when needed. SC2 was designed to encourage researchers to develop smart systems that collaboratively, rather than competitively, adapt in real time to the fast-changing, congested spectrum environment—redefining the conventional spectrum management roles of humans and machines to maximize the flow of radio frequency (RF) signals. The primary goal of SC2 was to imbue radios with advanced machine-learning capabilities so that they could collectively develop strategies that optimize use of the wireless spectrum in ways not possible with today’s intrinsically inefficient approach of pre-allocating exclusive access to designated frequencies.

SC2 unfolded over a three-year period with two preliminary competitions preceding a live finale that occurred in October 2019. Team GatorWings from the University of Florida won first place in the competition, followed by Team MarmotE, comprised of current and former Vanderbilt University researchers, in second place, and Team Zylinium, a three-person start-up with expertise in software-defined radios and AI, in third place.

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