Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List

DARPA History

History of DARPA and its accomplishments

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In 1994, the Sensor-Fuzed Weapon entered the Air Force Inventory. The weapon is an air-to-ground munition designed to meet the Air Force requirement for a general-purpose weapon that provides multiple kills per pass; can be employed over a wide area; functions under adverse weather conditions, at night, in an electronic countermeasures environment; and can be deployed from frontline fighters and bombers. DARPA began work in advanced weapons concepts for the Sensor Fuzed Weapon in the Assault Breaker Program as the Skeet Delivery Vehicle (SDV). In that program and related programs, DARPA developed and demonstrated a warhead and a simple infrared sensor concept leading to a 5.25-inch warhead, a more sophisticated sensor with target discrimination software, and a BLU launching/dispersal system. The smart projectile is a sensor-fuzed warhead comprised of an infrared sensor, a safe and arming device, a thermal battery, and a copper liner. The infrared sensor detects the target and fuzes the warhead to explosively form the copper liner into a kinetic energy projectile that can defeat both armored and soft vehicle targets.
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To help make effective swarm tactics with small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and other robots a reality, DARPA planned and organized the Service Academies Swarm Challenge, a collaboration between the Agency and the three U.S. military Service academies—the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the U.S. Air Force Academy. An experiment at its heart, the research effort was designed to encourage students to develop innovative offensive and defensive tactics for swarms of small UAVs.
Charles Rosen, head of the Machine Learning Group at the Stanford Research Institute (now known as SRI International) developed a proposal in 1964 to build a robot that at the time would have featured the intelligence and capabilities that had only been depicted in science fiction books and movies. Even then, Rosen knew that ARPA might appreciate the potential and provide support, which the Agency did in 1966. Six years later, Rosen’s team literally rolled out Shakey, so-named because it shook as it moved. More importantly, Shakey was the first mobile robot with enough artificial intelligence to navigate on its own through a set of rooms. Among its component technologies were a TV camera, a range finder, radio communications, and a set of drive wheels controlled with stepping motors.
The goal of the SIGMA program, which began in 2014, was to develop and test low-cost, high-efficiency radiation sensors that detect gamma and neutron radiation and to network them via smartphones. This would a distributed detection network that would provide city, state, and federal officials with real-time awareness of potential nuclear and radiological threats such as dirty bombs, which combine conventional explosives and radioactive material to increase their disruptive potential.
SOLDIER 911 is a personal emergency radio that monitors the position of the wearer, and if the soldier approaches a restricted area, the radio alerts the soldier and his or her chain of command. The radio also contains an emergency call button whereby the wearer can call for immediate assistance (hence the “911” name), and a geolocation network report-back system. SOLDIER 911 responded to an immediate need identified in 1995 by the Commander-in-Chief (CINC), Europe, to alert peacekeepers in Macedonia when they were approaching the Serbian border.
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