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Foundational Strategic Technologies and Systems

Versatile enabling technologies that could lead to entire new classes of capabilities

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Here’s something easy to forget when you are chatting on your cell phone or flipping channels on your smart TV: although wireless communication seems nothing short of magic, it is a brilliant, reality-anchored application of physics and engineering in which radio signals travel from a transmitter to a receiver in the form of electric and magnetic fields woven into fast-as-light electromagnetic waves.
Unveiled in March 2016, DARPA’s Spectrum Collaboration Challenge has reached an early milestone by choosing 30 contenders for the first of the three-phase competition, slated to culminate at the end of 2019 with a live match of finalists who have survived the two preliminary contests. In addition to 22 teams from academia and small and large companies, eight individuals have made it into the competition.
In the latest episode of DARPA podcast series, Voices from DARPA, Fariba Fahroo of the Agency’s Defense Sciences Office discusses just how pivotal mathematics can be for, in her words, “keeping our models honest.” By characterizing the uncertainties inherent in the computer models we use to better understand complex phenomena, such as the flow of air over aircraft surfaces and through high-performance engines, as well as to design, engineer, and control today’s ever more complicated civilian and military systems, Fahroo aims to develop modeling frameworks by which these systems can be built and deployed with more confidence and insight than ever into their strengths and vulnerabilities.
Self-driving taxis. Cell phones that react appropriately to spoken requests. Computers that outcompete world-class chess and Go players. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming part and parcel of the technological landscape—not only in the civilian and commercial worlds but also within the Defense Department, where AI is finding application in such arenas as cybersecurity and dynamic logistics planning.
Since the advent of microelectronics in the mid-20th century, humanity has been on a nonstop sprint to eke more speed, power efficiency, and computational power from the sextillions (1021) of ever more miniaturized transistors that have come to underlie so much of the modern technoscape.