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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.

Malicious actors in cyberspace currently operate with little fear of being caught due to the fact that it is extremely difficult, in some cases perhaps even impossible, to reliably and confidently attribute actions in cyberspace to individuals. The reason cyber attribution is difficult stems at least in part from a lack of end-to-end accountability in the current Internet infrastructure. More
In counterinsurgent, counter-terror campaigns, risks associated with conventional weapons in combat operations can severely limit their use and effectiveness, particularly in urban environments. These risks are largely associated with challenges posed by confining intended effects to adversary combatants and forces. More
DARPA’s Experimental Spaceplane program (formerly known as XS-1) aims to build and fly the first of an entirely new class of hypersonic aircraft that would bolster national security by providing short-notice, low-cost access to space. The program aims to achieve a capability well out of reach today—launches to low Earth orbit in days, as compared to the months or years of preparation currently needed to get a single satellite on orbit. Success will depend upon significant advances in both technical capabilities and ground operations, but would revolutionize the Nation’s ability to recover from a catastrophic loss of military or commercial satellites, upon which the United States today is critically dependent. More
| Cost | Launch | Space |
Dramatic success in machine learning has led to a torrent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications. Continued advances promise to produce autonomous systems that will perceive, learn, decide, and act on their own. However, the effectiveness of these systems is limited by the machine’s current inability to explain their decisions and actions to human users (Figure 1). The Department of Defense (DoD) is facing challenges that demand more intelligent, autonomous, and symbiotic systems. Explainable AI—especially explainable machine learning—will be essential if future warfighters are to understand, appropriately trust, and effectively manage an emerging generation of artificially intelligent machine partners. More
Materials with superior strength, density and resiliency properties are important for the harsh environments in which Department of Defense platforms, weapons and their components operate. Recent scientific advances have opened up new possibilities for material design in the ultrahigh pressure regime (up to three million times higher than atmospheric pressure). Materials formed under ultrahigh pressure, known as extended solids, exhibit dramatic changes in physical, mechanical and functional properties and may offer significant improvements to armor, electronics, propulsion and munitions systems in any aerospace, ground or naval platform. More
The threat of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks has been well-recognized in the data networking world for two decades. Such attacks are orchestrated by sets of networked hosts that collectively act to disrupt or deny access to information, communications or computing capabilities, generally by exhausting critical resources such as bandwidth, processor capacity or memory of targeted resources. More
The goal of the EXTREME Program is to develop new optical components, devices, systems, architectures and design tools using Engineered Optical Materials (EnMats) to enable new functionality and/or vastly improve size, weight, and power characteristics of traditional optical systems. EnMats are broadly defined to include, but are not limited to, metamaterials (both metallic and dielectric), scattering surfaces and volumes, holographic structures, and diffractive elements. More
The goal of the FLA program is to explore non-traditional perception and autonomy methods that could enable a new class of algorithms for minimalistic high-speed navigation in cluttered environments. Through this exploration, the program aims to develop and demonstrate the capability for small (i.e., able to fit through windows) autonomous UAVs to fly at speeds up to 20 m/s (45 mph) with no communication links to the operator and without GPS guidance. The FLA program is demonstrating a sequence of novel capabilities, beginning with lower-clutter, fly-by missions and progressing to higher-clutter, fly-through missions. More