Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List


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DARPA developed the first medium-size endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Amber, which directly led to the Gnat 750 UAV and the Air Force-operated Tier 2 Predator UAV used in Bosnia. At altitudes of up to 25,000 feet for periods exceeding forty hours, the Predator aircraft operated successfully as an element of Exercise Roving Sands in early 1995 and was deployed in the Bosnia crisis to support UN/NATO operations. Originally a Navy-Army joint effort, the Predator UAV was transitioned to the Air Force in 1995 for operation and maintenance. The Amber Program was initiated in 1984, under DARPA’s rapid prototyping philosophy.
At a mountaintop event in New Mexico on October 18, 2016, DARPA handed off ownership its Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) from an Agency-led design and construction program to ownership and operation by U.S. Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), which operate the telescope in Australia jointly with the Australian government.
First proposed in 1977 by Japanese researcher Kenichi Iga, the vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) would have characteristics similar to light-emitting diodes and could be coupled to optical fibers. Over the next decades, a small research community began chipping away at the technical challenges it would take to produce practical VCSEL devices. But not until 1989 when DARPA began a series of programs that would support, among other technology goals, the government-wide High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) Initiative, did the financial and institutional resources become adequate to move technical promise toward technological reality. VCSELs could provide short-distance, high-speed digital interconnections that would be important to meet goals of the HPCC initiative. One thrust of this effort led to the formation of the Optoelectronic Technology consortium, which led to an industry-stimulating demonstrating of multi-gigabit optoelectronic interconnect components that were based on VCSELs. At this point, still with some DARPA support, industry began to take the development baton. By 2000, VCSELs began to emerge from their developmental status into applications in fiber-fiber interconnections, optical data storage, and sensing applications. They later subsequent find roles in technologies, such as free-space chip-to-chip communications and atomic clocks, which were supporting or leading players in later DARPA programs.

The X-31 experimental aircraft was designed and built by Rockwell and Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm (MBB), as part of a joint U.S. and German Enhanced Fighter Maneuverability program to improve pilots’ abilities to control the aircraft’s pitch and yaw with more finesse than was possible in most conventional fighters. One outcome was the ability, with the help of design elements such as thrust vectoring, to execute controlled flight at extreme angles of attack at which conventional aircraft would stall or lose control.

DARPA joined the cause by sponsoring tests of the X-31. During a test on November 6, 1992, one of the two X-31s that were built in the program, achieved controlled flight at a 70° angle of attack. On April 29, 1993, the second X-31 successfully executed a swift, minimum-radius, 180° turn using a post-stall maneuver, a maneuver well beyond the ability of conventional aircraft. Of the two aircraft, one survived to the conclusion of the X-31 program in June 1995. That aircraft underwent further research at the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland. Its ultimate destination was Germany where it remains on display at the Deutsches Museum Flugwerft Schleissheim.


DARPA comprises approximately 220 government employees in six technical offices, including nearly 100 program managers, who together oversee about 250 research and development programs.

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