Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyOur Research

Our Research

DARPA’s investment strategy begins with a portfolio approach. Reaching for outsized impact means taking on risk, and high risk in pursuit of high payoff is a hallmark of DARPA’s programs. We pursue our objectives through hundreds of programs. By design, programs are finite in duration while creating lasting revolutionary change. They address a wide range of technology opportunities and national security challenges. This assures that while individual efforts might fail—a natural consequence of taking on risk—the total portfolio delivers. More

For reference, past DARPA research programs can be viewed in the Past Programs Archive.

Current airborne electronic warfare (EW) systems must first identify a threat radar to determine the appropriate preprogrammed electronic countermeasure (ECM) technique. This approach loses effectiveness as radars evolve from fixed analog systems to programmable digital variants with unknown behaviors and agile waveforms. Future radars will likely present an even greater challenge as they will be capable of sensing the environment and adapting their transmissions and signal processing to maximize performance and mitigate interference effects. More
| EW | ISR | Spectrum |
The Adaptive RF Technology (ART) program aims to significantly advance the hardware used in communication radios by developing a fully adaptive and reconfigurable architecture that is agnostic to specified waveforms and standards. ART-enabled “cognitive” radios would be able to reconfigure themselves to operate in any frequency band with any modulation and for multiple access specifications under a range of environmental and operating conditions. More
In the decades-long quest to develop reusable aircraft that can reach hypersonic speeds – Mach 5 (approximately 3,300 miles per hour/5,300 kilometers per hour) and above – engineers have grappled with two intertwined, seemingly intractable challenges: The top speed of traditional jet-turbine engines maxes out at roughly Mach 2.5, while hypersonic engines such as scramjets cannot provide effective thrust at speeds much below Mach 3.5. More
| Air |
The Advanced Plant Technologies (APT) program seeks to develop plants capable of serving as next-generation, persistent, ground-based sensor technologies to protect deployed troops and the homeland by detecting and reporting on chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) threats. Such biological sensors would be effectively energy-independent, increasing their potential for wide distribution, while reducing risks associated with deployment and maintenance of traditional sensors. These technologies could also potentially support humanitarian operations by, for example, detecting unexploded ordnance in post-conflict settings. More
The Advanced RF Mapping program seeks to provide radio frequency (RF) situational awareness using low-cost sensors distributed over the battlespace. The sensors include devices deployed for other purposes, such as tactical radios. The vision is that all RF devices in theater will support RF situational awareness when not performing their primary mission. More
The ability to see farther, with higher clarity, and through darkness and/or obscurants, is vital to nearly all military operations. At the same time, for advanced imaging systems there is an immense need to increase field of view (FOV), resolution, and day/night capability at reduced size, weight and power (SWaP) and cost. The main driver for these requirements is the need to provide dismounted soldiers and near-ground support platforms with the best available imaging tools to enhance combat effectiveness. More
Airspace for the flying public today is perpetually congested yet remarkably safe, thanks in no small part to a well-established air traffic control system that tracks, guides and continuously monitors thousands of flights a day. When it comes to small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) such as commercial quadcopters, however, no such comprehensive tracking system exists. And as off-the-shelf UAS become less expensive, easier to fly, and more adaptable for terrorist or military purposes, U.S. forces will increasingly be challenged by the need to quickly detect and identify such craft—especially in urban areas, where sight lines are limited and many objects may be moving at similar speeds. More
Difficult terrain and threats such as ambushes and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) can make ground-based transportation to and from the front line a dangerous challenge. Helicopters can easily bypass those problems but present logistical challenges of their own, and can subject flight crew to different types of threats. They are also expensive to operate, and the supply of available helicopters cannot always meet the demand for their services, which cover diverse operational needs including resupply, fire-team insertion and extraction, and casualty evacuation. More