DARPA Strategic Plan Report 2009

Network World has coverage of a 57 page DARPA project report.

Some of the highlights:

DARPA’s Structural Amorphous Metals (SAM) program is building a new class of bulk materials with amorphous or “glassy” microstructures that have previously unobtainable combinations of hardness, strength, damage tolerance and corrosion resistance. Calcium-based SAM alloys are being developed for ultralight space structures, aluminum-based alloys for efficient turbine compressor blades, and iron-based alloys for corrosion resistance in marine environments. In an effort with the Navy, the Naval Advanced Amorphous Coatings program has devised a thermal spray technique that produces textured amorphous metal coatings with a high coefficient of friction and wear, impact, and corrosion resistance that is superior to any other corrosion-resistant, non-skid material, with the goal of certifying them for unrestricted use on Navy ships.

Faster Vaccines and Enhanced Effectiveness from Smaller Doses

DARPA has developed approaches to dramatically increase the effectiveness of vaccines. One agent, CpG, has been shown to reduce the dose required to achieve immunity and the number of “booster shots” required to maintain immunity. With CpG, DARPA demonstrated a nearly nine-fold improvement in response to the anthrax vaccine, and significantly shortened the time until military personnel are fully protected. CpG has transitioned widely and is in advanced clinical trials for influenza and biodefense vaccines.

Wireless and Chip Scale Atomic Clocks

DARPA is developing technologies for wireless tactical net-centric warfare that will enable reliable, mobile, secure, self-forming, ad hoc networking among the various echelons while using available spectrum very efficiently.

For starters, DARPA said frequency spectrum is scarce and valuable. Most of the radio frequency spectrum is already allocated to users who may or may not be using it at a given time and place. DARPA’s neXt Generation (XG) Communications technology will effectively make up to ten times more spectrum available by taking advantage of spectrum that has been assigned but is not being used at a particular point in time. XG technology senses the actual spectrum being used and then dynamically uses the spectrum that is not busy at that particular place and time. XG resists jamming and does not interfere with other users.

DARPA also has been developing autonomous network communications for the cluttered environment of cities. Urban clutter usually creates multiple signals from diverse reflections of the initial signal (multi-path), and the result is weak and/or fading voice/data communications. DARPA’s the Mobile Networked Multiple-Input/Multiple-Output (MNM) program is actually exploiting multipath phenomena to improve communications between vehicles moving in cities without using a fixed communications infrastructure.

Networks rely on a widely available timing signal, or common clock, to sequence the movement of voice and data traffic and to enable encryption. The timing signal is often provided by the Global Positioning System (GPS) or broadcast via other radio signals. We should expect adversaries to attack our networks by blocking these timing signals.

DARPA has been developing a miniature atomic clock – measuring approximately one cubic centimeter – to supply the timing signal should the external signal be lost. The Chip-Scale Atomic Clock will let a network node, using a Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System, maintain synchronous operation with the network for several days after loss of the GPS signal.