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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.

The past decade has seen explosive growth in development and training of artificial intelligence (AI) systems. However, as AI has taken on progressively more complex problems, the amount of computation required to train the largest AI systems has been increasing ten-fold annually. While AI advances are beginning to have a deep impact in digital computing processes, trade-offs between computational capability, resources and size, weight, and power consumption (SWaP) will become increasingly critical in the near future. More
Modern expeditionary military missions generate and exchange massive amounts of data that are used to produce situational awareness and guide decision-making. Much of the data must travel long distances along backbone communications networks composed of high-capacity links that interconnect command centers. More
The ultimate goal of the DARPA Accelerated Computation for Efficient Scientific Simulation (ACCESS) is to demonstrate new, specialized benchtop technology that can solve large problems in complex physical systems on the hour timescale, compared to existing methods that require full cluster-scale supercomputing resources and take weeks to months. The core principle of the program is to leverage advances in optics, MEMS, additive manufacturing, and other emerging technologies to develop new non-traditional hybrid analog and digital computational means. More
Efficient discovery and production of new molecules is essential to realize capabilities across the DoD, from simulants and medicines essential to counter emerging threats, to coatings, dyes and specialty fuels needed for advanced performance. More
The United States Government has an interest in developing and maintaining a strategic understanding of events, situations, and trends around the world, in a variety of domains. The information used in developing this understanding comes from many disparate sources, in a variety of genres, and data types, and as a mixture of structured and unstructured data. Unstructured data can include text or speech in English and a variety of other languages, as well as images, videos, and other sensor information. More
Over the past 40 years, our world has become increasingly connected. These connections have enabled major advances in national security from pervasive real-time intelligence and communications to optimal logistics. With this connectivity has come the threat of cyber attacks on both military systems and critical infrastructure. While we focus the vast majority of our security efforts on protecting computers and networks, more than 80% of cyber attacks and over 70% of those from nation states are initiated by exploiting humans rather than computer or network security flaws. To build secure cyber systems, it is necessary to protect not only the computers and networks that make up these systems but their human users as well. More
The goal of the Adaptable Lighter Than Air (ALTA) program is to develop and demonstrate a high altitude lighter-than-air vehicle capable of wind-borne navigation over extended ranges. The balloons can fly at altitudes of more than 75,000 feet. More
| Air |
The military relies heavily on the Global Positioning System (GPS) for positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT), but GPS access is easily blocked by methods such as jamming. In addition, many environments in which our military operates (inside buildings, in urban canyons, under dense foliage, underwater, and underground) have limited or no GPS access. To solve this challenge, Adaptable Navigation Systems (ANS) seeks to provide GPS-quality PNT to military users regardless of the operational environment. More
The goal of the Adapting Cross-Domain Kill-Webs (ACK) program is to assist military decision-makers with rapidly identifying and selecting options for tasking – and retasking – assets within and across organizational boundaries. While the technology developed for this program will apply at both the tactical and operational levels, ACK will focus on providing support for tactical decisions. More
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