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.

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
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 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
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
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
Today’s interconnected wireless world has led to congested airwaves, making Radio Frequency (RF) management a hot topic. For warfighters overseas, efficiently managing the congested RF spectrum is critical to ensure effective communications and intelligence gathering. 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
The Agile Teams (A-Teams) program aims to discover, test, and demonstrate generalizable mathematical abstractions for the design of agile human-machine teams and to provide predictive insight into team performance. More
Destroying bulk stores of chemical warfare agents (CWAs) and organic precursors is a significant challenge for the international community. Today, for example, there are no approaches that exploit chemistries that are truly agnostic in terms of the agents that can be processed. In addition, current approaches require transport of agents from the storage site to a neutralization site. Ensuring safe transport of the agent can add significant cost and time to the process. More
Satellites today are launched via booster rocket from a limited number of ground facilities, which can involve a month or longer of preparation for a small payload and significant cost for each mission. Launch costs are driven in part today by fixed site infrastructure, integration, checkout and flight rules. Fixed launch sites can be rendered idle by something as innocuous as rain, and they also limit the direction and timing of orbits satellites can achieve. More
Military aircraft have evolved to incorporate ever more automated capabilities, improving mission safety and success rates. Yet operators of even the most automated aircraft must still manage dauntingly complex interfaces and be prepared to respond effectively in emergencies and other unexpected situations that no amount of training can fully prepare one for. More
The goal of All Together Now (ATN) is to develop theoretical protocols and experimental techniques that enable new collective atom regimes, leading to sensitivities approaching the ultimate fundamental limits of performance. More
Today’s electromagnetic (EM) systems use antenna arrays to provide unique capabilities, such as multiple beam forming and electronic steering, which are important for a wide variety of applications such as communications, signal intelligence (SIGINT), radar, and electronic warfare. More
Autonomy refers to a system’s ability to accomplish goals independently, or with minimal supervision from human operators in environments that are complex and unpredictable. Autonomous systems are increasingly critical to several current and future Department of Defense (DoD) mission needs. More
Precise timing is essential across DoD systems, including communications, navigation, electronic warfare, intelligence systems reconnaissance, and system-of-systems platform coordination, as well as in national infrastructure applications in commerce and banking, telecommunications, and power distribution. Improved clock performance throughout the timing network, particularly at point-of-use, would enable advanced collaborative capabilities and provide greater resilience to disruptions of timing synchronization networks, notably by reducing reliance on satellite-based global navigation satellite system (GNSS) timing signals. More
State-of-the-art magnetometers are used for diverse civilian and DoD applications, among them biomedical imaging, navigation, and detecting unexploded ordnance and underwater and underground anomalies. Commercially available magnetometers range from inexpensive Hall probes to highly sensitive fluxgate and atomic magnetometers to high-precision Superconducting Quantum Interference Device (SQUID) and Spin Exchange Relaxation Free (SERF) magnetometers. More
Manufacturing by assembly provides the flexibility to freely combine materials and components and is fundamental to creating devices from cell phones to appliances to airplanes. However, assembly processes are currently not practical at the nanoscale. The A2P program was conceived to deliver scalable technologies for assembly of nanometer- to micron-scale components—which frequently possess unique characteristics due to their small size—into larger, human-scale systems. More
The Autonomous Diagnostics to Enable Prevention and Therapeutics (ADEPT) program supports individual troop readiness and total force health protection by developing technologies to rapidly identify and respond to threats posed by natural and engineered diseases and toxins. A subset of ADEPT technologies specifically support use by personnel with minimal medical training, delivering centralized laboratory capabilities even in the low-resource environments typical of many military operations. The program is part of a portfolio of DARPA-funded research aimed at providing options for preempting or mitigating constantly evolving infectious disease threats. More
The Battlefield Medicine program supports military readiness in far-forward deployed settings by overcoming logistical obstacles to manufacturing and delivery of urgently needed pharmaceutical products used to treat emerging threats. More
The Behavioral Learning for Adaptive Electronic Warfare (BLADE) program is developing the capability to counter new and dynamic wireless communication threats in tactical environments. BLADE is enabling a shift from today's manual-intensive lab-based countermeasure development approach to an adaptive, in-the-field systems approach. The program will achieve this by developing novel machine-learning algorithms and techniques that can rapidly detect and characterize new radio threats, dynamically synthesize new countermeasures, and provide accurate battle damage assessment based on over-the-air observable changes in the threat. More
| EW | ISR | Spectrum |
Some of the systems that matter most to the Defense Department are very complicated. Ecosystems, brains and economic and social systems have many parts and processes, but they are studied piecewise, and their literatures and data are fragmented, distributed and inconsistent. It is difficult to build complete, explanatory models of complicated systems, and so effects in these systems that are brought about by many interacting factors are poorly understood. More
| AI | Automation | Data |
The Biological Control program seeks to support a wide range of potential Department of Defense (DoD) applications by establishing design and control principles that lead to reliable performance in biological systems. Leveraging technologies developed under this program will enable consistent operation of systems that combat biological threats; speed healing after physical trauma; and support military readiness by complementing the body’s natural defenses against emerging diseases. More
The Biological Robustness in Complex Settings (BRICS) program aims to transform engineered microbial biosystems into reliable, cost-effective strategic resources for the Department of Defense (DoD), enabling future applications in the areas of intelligence, readiness, and force protection. Examples include the identification of the geographical provenance of objects; protection of critical systems and infrastructure against corrosion, biofouling, and other damage; sensing of hazardous compounds; and efficient, on-demand bio-production of novel coatings, fuels, and drugs. More
Unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) have inherent operational and tactical advantages such as stealth and surprise. UUV size, weight and volume are constrained by the handling, launch and recovery systems on their host platforms, however, and UUV range is limited by the amount of energy available for propulsion and the power required for a given underwater speed. Current state-of-the-art energy sources are limited by safety and certification requirements for host platforms. More
How can society responsibly reap the benefits of big data while protecting individual privacy? More
| Data | Privacy |
Expanded global access to diverse means of communication is resulting in more information being produced in more languages more quickly than ever before. The volume of information encountered by DoD, the speed at which it arrives, and the diversity of languages and media through which it is communicated make identifying and acting on relevant information a serious challenge. At the same time, there is a need to communicate with non-English-speaking local populations of foreign countries, but it is at present costly and difficult for DoD to do so. More
Modern-day software operates within a complex ecosystem of libraries, models, protocols and devices. Ecosystems change over time in response to new technologies or paradigms, as a consequence of repairing discovered vulnerabilities (security, logical, or performance-related), or because of varying resource availability and reconfiguration of the underlying execution platform. When these changes occur, applications may no longer work as expected because their assumptions on how the ecosystem should behave may have been inadvertently violated. More
Over the last 15 years, the U.S. military has increasingly been called upon to face complex operational environments (OE) and diverse enemies. Such complex OEs require the actions of U.S. forces and host-nation or coalition partners to be based on a common holistic understanding of the OE (e.g., governments, population groups, security forces, and violent non-state actors) and, in particular, the causal dynamics that can manifest as unanticipated and often counter-intuitive outcomes. More
It can cost up to $100 million and take more than two years for a large team of engineers to design custom integrated circuits for specific tasks, such as synchronizing the activity of unmanned aerial vehicles or the real-time conversion of raw radar data into tactically useful 3-D imagery. This is why Defense Department engineers often turn to inexpensive and readily available general-purpose circuits, and then rely on software to make those circuits run the specialized operations they need. More
The Clean-Slate Design of Resilient, Adaptive, Secure Hosts (CRASH) program will pursue innovative research into the design of new computer systems that are highly resistant to cyber-attack, can adapt after a successful attack to continue rendering useful services, learn from previous attacks how to guard against and cope with future attacks, and can repair themselves after attacks have succeeded. Exploitable vulnerabilities originate from a handful of known sources (e.g., memory safety); they remain because of deficits in tools, languages and hardware that could address and prevent vulnerabilities at the design, implementation and execution stages. More
| Cyber | Trust |
The U.S. military’s investments in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have proven invaluable for missions ranging from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to tactical strike, but most current systems demand continuous control by a dedicated pilot and sensor operator supported by numerous telemetry-linked analysts. More
The explosive growth in mobile and telecommunication markets has pushed the semiconductor industry toward integration of digital, analog, and mixed-signal blocks into system-on-chip (SoC) solutions. Advanced silicon (Si) complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology has enabled this integration, but has also led to a rise in costs associated with design and processing. Driven by aggressive digital CMOS scaling for high-volume products, Intellectual Property (IP) reuse has emerged as a tool to help lower design costs associated with advanced SoCs. More
The Communicating with Computers (CwC) program aims to enable symmetric communication between people and computers in which machines are not merely receivers of instructions but collaborators, able to harness a full range of natural modes including language, gesture and facial or other expressions. For the purposes of the CwC program, communication is understood to be the sharing of complex ideas in collaborative contexts. Complex ideas are assumed to be built from a relatively small set of elementary ideas, and language is thought to specify such complex ideas—but not completely, because language is ambiguous and depends in part on context, which can augment language and improve the specification of complex ideas. More
| AI | Autonomy | Data |
The continued growth in unmanned, sensor, and networked devices is expected to drive the need for larger, more capable and more diverse communications systems. Among other enhancements, these systems must improve jam-resistance and low probability of detection to keep pace with adversaries’ growing electronic sophistication and must adapt to fast-changing operational environments. By contrast, today’s military communications architectures are static and inflexible. More
Defense forces rely on electromagnetic dominance for command, control, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and related applications that use the electromagnetic spectrum. Similarly, spectrum use by our adversaries, coupled with extensive commercial use, yields an increasingly congested space, time and frequency environment. More
System-of-Systems (SoS) architectures are increasingly central in managing defense, national security and urban infrastructure applications. However, it is difficult to model and currently impossible to systematically design such complex systems using existing tools, which has led to inferior performance, unexpected problems and weak resilience. More
Commercial Test and Measurement equipment has advanced greatly with the emergence of sophisticated cellular and wireless local area network technology and can be used to intercept, analyze and exploit our military communications signals. More
A rapidly increasing percentage of the world’s population is connected to the global information environment. At the same time, the information environment is enabling social interactions that are radically changing how and at what rate information spreads. Both nation-states and nonstate actors have increasingly drawn upon this global information environment to promote their beliefs and further related goals. More
The Department of Defense (DoD) maintains information systems that depend on Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software, Government off-the-shelf (GOTS) software, and Free and open source (FOSS) software. Securing this diverse technology base requires highly skilled hackers who reason about the functionality of software and identify novel vulnerabilities. More
The growth of the internet-of-things (IoT) and network-connected composed systems (e.g., aircraft, critical-infrastructure, etc.) has led to unprecedented technical diversity in deployed systems. From consumer IoT devices developed with minimal built-in security, which are often co-opted by malware to launch large distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on internet infrastructure, to remote attacks on Industrial Control System (ICS) devices, these newly connected, composed systems provide a vast attack surface. While the diversity of functionality and the scope of what can now be connected, monitored, and controlled over the Internet has increased dramatically, economies of scale have decreased platform diversity. More
Recent technological advances have made the longstanding dream of on-orbit robotic servicing of satellites a near-term possibility. The potential advantages of that unprecedented capability are enormous. Instead of designing their satellites to accommodate the harsh reality that, once launched, their investments could never be repaired or upgraded, satellite owners could use robotic vehicles to physically inspect, assist, and modify their on-orbit assets. That could significantly lower construction and deployment costs while dramatically extending satellite utility, resilience, and reliability. More
Dominance of the radio frequency (RF) spectrum is critical to successful U.S. military operations. Today, we do this using discrete radar, electronic warfare (EW), and communication payloads that are separately designed, procured, and integrated on platforms. These payloads typically use dedicated apertures, are realized with tightly coupled hardware and software, and are not well-coordinated in their use of spectrum. This rigid and constrained approach makes it difficult and time-consuming to adopt new technology, adapt to rapidly changing adversary threats, maneuver functions effectively in spectrum, and create comprehensive compact RF systems. More
The Cross-Domain Maritime Surveillance and Targeting (CDMaST) program seeks to identify and implement architectures consisting of novel combinations of manned and unmanned systems to deny ocean environments to adversaries as a means of projecting power. By exploiting promising new developments in unmanned systems along with emerging long-range weapon systems, the program aims to develop an advanced, integrated undersea and above-sea warfighting capability able to execute long-range attacks against submarines and ships over large contested maritime areas. More