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.

For the past 60 years, helicopters have provided essential vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities–omnidirectional maneuverability, hovering, landing on almost any flat surface–for countless military operations. Even as VTOL aircraft technology continues to advance, however, one key goal still remains elusive: improving top speed beyond 150 kt-170 kt. Faster VTOL aircraft could shorten mission times and increase the potential for successful operations, while reducing vulnerability to enemy attack. Unfortunately, new VTOL designs so far have been unable to increase top speed without unacceptable compromises in range, efficiency, useful payload or simplicity of design. More
Government agencies and the military rely upon many kinds of Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) commodity Information Technology (IT) devices, including mobile phones, printers, computer workstations and many other everyday items. Each of these devices is the final product of long supply chains involving many vendors from many nations providing various components and subcomponents, including considerable amounts of software and firmware. Long supply chains provide adversaries with opportunities to insert hidden malicious functionality into this software and firmware that adversaries can exploit to accomplish harmful objectives, including exfiltration of sensitive data and sabotage of critical operations. More
Cloudy skies, dust and other vision-obscuring conditions often limit the support capabilities overhead aircraft can provide warfighters on the ground. Airborne weapon systems that use electro-optic and infrared (EO/IR) sensors during support missions can’t “see” through clouds, and current synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology can’t provide high-resolution video imagery of moving ground targets through clouds. More
The low cost of digital imaging devices has allowed them to become ubiquitous consumer products. This low cost is made possible by leveraging a mature complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) processing infrastructure and the ability to fabricate complete focal plane arrays (FPAs) at the wafer scale. A similar trend is occurring at a smaller scale with thermal imaging technologies. Microbolometers that are sensitive in the LWIR spectrum are also manufactured at the wafer scale and the resulting cost reduction is enabling thermal imagers at consumer-grade price points. More
Currently, understanding and assessing the readiness of the warfighter involves medical intervention with the help of advanced equipment, such as electrocardiographs (EKGs) and other specialized medical devices, that are too expensive and cumbersome to employ continuously or without supervision in non-controlled environments. On the other hand, currently 92 percent of adults in the United States own a cell phone, which could be used as the basis for continuous, passive health, and readiness assessment. More
| AI | Analytics | Data | Health |
The majority of work to develop and mature military wireless networks to date has focused on efficiency and stability in benign conditions. Insufficient attention has been paid to identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities arising from the new features being added to make these networks more efficient. Unfortunately, because of the focus on efficiency, the protocols that have been developed implicitly trust all information shared about the state of the nodes and the larger network. Consequently, when the information that is shared among these nodes is bad, the network quickly becomes unusable. More
The World Modelers program aims to develop technology that integrates qualitative causal analyses with quantitative models and relevant data to provide a comprehensive understanding of complicated, dynamic national security questions. The goal is to develop approaches that can accommodate and integrate dozens of contributing models connected by thousands of pathways—orders of magnitude beyond what is possible today. More
| AI | Automation | Data |
Current defense systems for processing information struggle to effectively scale to the volume and characteristics of changing data environments and the range of applications for data analysis. Overcoming these challenges requires fundamentally new approaches to data science, including distributed computation and interactive visualization. More