Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List


Compatible interconnection of disparate components and systems

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State-of-the-art military sensors today rely on “active electronics” to detect vibration, light, sound or other signals. That means they constantly consume power, with much of that power and time spent processing what often turns out to be irrelevant data. This power consumption limits sensors’ useful lifetimes to a few weeks or months when operating from state-of-the-art batteries, and has slowed the development of new sensor technologies and capabilities. Moreover, the chronic need to redeploy power-depleted sensors is not only costly and time-consuming but also increases warfighter exposure to danger.
For decades, U.S. national security was ensured in large part by a simple advantage: a near-monopoly on access to the most advanced technologies. Increasingly, however, off-the-shelf equipment developed for the transportation, construction, agricultural and other commercial sectors features highly sophisticated components, which resourceful adversaries can modify or combine to create novel and unanticipated security threats. To assess this growing security challenge and identify specific potential risks, a new DARPA effort will ask experts across multiple disciplines to look at today’s bustling tech marketplace with an inventor’s eye and imagine how easily purchased, relatively benign technologies might be converted into serious security threats.
Military commanders responsible for situational awareness and command and control of assets in space know all too well the challenge that comes from the vast size of the space domain. The volume of Earth’s operational space domain is hundreds of thousands times larger than the Earth’s oceans. It contains thousands of objects hurtling at tens of thousands of miles per hour. The scales and speeds in this extreme environment are difficult enough to grasp conceptually, let alone operationally, as is required for commanders overseeing the nation’s increasingly critical space assets.
More than 500,000 pieces of manmade space debris—including spent rocket stages, defunct satellites, and fragments as small as flecks of paint—currently hurtle around the Earth at roughly 17,000 miles per hour. At those speeds, impacts involving even the smallest of those items can damage satellites and spawn chain reactions of collisions, increasing the amount of orbital flotsam and creating “minefields” in space that can remain unpassable for centuries.
Open the hood of just about any electronic gadget and you probably will find one or more printed circuit boards (PCBs)—most often in a leaf green color—studded with processing, memory, data-relaying, graphics, and other types of chips and components, all interconnected with a labyrinth of finely embossed wiring. By challenging the technology community to integrate the collective functions hosted by an entire PCB onto a device the size of a single chip, DARPA’s newest program is making a bid to usher in a fresh dimension of technology miniaturization.