DARPA today released Breakthrough Technologies for National Security, a biennial report summarizing the Agency’s historical mission, current and evolving focus areas and recent transitions of DARPA-developed technologies to the military Services and other sectors.
DARPA is focusing its strategic investments in four main areas:
1. Rethink Complex Military Systems: To help enable faster development and integration of breakthrough military capabilities in today’s rapidly shifting landscape, DARPA is working to make weapons systems more modular and easily upgraded and improved; assure superiority in the air, maritime, ground, space and cyber domains; improve position, navigation and timing (PNT) without depending on the satellite-based Global Positioning System; and augment defenses against terrorism.
2. Master the Information Explosion: DARPA is developing novel approaches to deriving insights from massive datasets, with powerful big-data tools. The Agency is also developing technologies to ensure that the data and systems with which critical decisions are made are trustworthy, such as automated cyber defense capabilities and methods to create fundamentally more secure systems. And DARPA is addressing the growing need to ensure privacy at various levels of need without losing the national security value that comes from appropriate access to networked data.
3. Harness Biology as Technology: To leverage recent breakthroughs in neuroscience, immunology, genetics and related fields, DARPA in 2014 created its Biological Technologies Office, which has enabled a new level of momentum for the Agency’s portfolio of innovative, bio-based programs. DARPA’s work in this area includes programs to accelerate progress in synthetic biology, outpace the spread of infectious diseases and master new neurotechnologies.
4. Expand the Technological Frontier: DARPA’s core work has always involved overcoming seemingly insurmountable physics and engineering barriers and, once showing those daunting problems to be tractable after all, applying new capabilities made possible by these breakthroughs directly to national security needs. Maintaining momentum in this essential specialty, DARPA is working to achieve new capabilities by applying deep mathematics; inventing new chemistries, processes and materials; and harnessing quantum physics.
This article will look at the first two DARPA areas of focus which are Rethinking complex military systems and mastering the information explosion.
Rethinking complex Military systems
• Assuring Dominance of the Electromagnetic Spectrum
After decades in which the United States enjoyed overwhelming dominance of the electromagnetic spectrum, other nations are catching up quickly, in part because of the growing commercial availability of remarkably powerful technologies. To reassert electromagnetic dominance, DARPA is developing advanced algorithms to identify and counter unanticipated enemy radars in real time; fully configurable RF systems so that communications, radar and electronic warfare can share precious spectrum; and new defense-related electronic platforms for sensing and imaging.
• Improving Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) Without GPS
• Maintaining Air Superiority in Contested Environments
DARPA is planning an effort to develop and fly X-plane prototypes to show what is possible with new air platform technologies. The program will work closely with the Air Force and Navy and aims to provide the pivotal demonstrations that can inform their future aircraft system acquisitions. DARPA is also developing new system-of-systems architectures and experimentation tools to explore modular, distributed and coherent mission systems.
• Leading the World in Advanced Hypersonics
• Asserting a Robust Capability in Space
• Enhancing Maritime Agility
The Upward Falling Payloads (UFP) program centers on developing deployable, unmanned, distributed systems that could lie on the deep-ocean floor for years at a time. These deep-sea nodes could then be recalled remotely when needed and “fall upward” to the surface. The goal is to support the U.S. Navy with distributed technologies anywhere over large maritime area
• Exerting Control on the Ground
DARPA is researching radically redesigned ground vehicles for troop support, including technologies for a new-generation combat vehicle with enhanced mobility and survivability. The agency is also developing a range of squad overmatch capabilities to help ground forces expand their reach, situational awareness and maneuverability
• Augmenting Defense Against Terrorism
Master the Information Explosion
Global digital data is in the midst of a seemingly boundless growth spurt. Every minute of every day, more than 300 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube and hundreds of new websites are launched. Nearly 5×10^22 bytes of digital data are predicted to be generated by 2020— about ten times the current volume. And of the approximately 5×10^21 bytes created as of 2014, an estimated 90 percent was generated in the previous two years alone.
• Deriving Meaning From Big Data
• Building Trust Into Information Systems
DARPA’s programs are developing the building blocks of the next generation of compact, powerful radiofrequency systems for radar, communications and electronic warfare. These arrays can significantly reduce development times for the sophisticated RF systems on which our military depends.
At the micro- and nanosecond time scales at which our information and radio frequency (RF) systems operate, the rate at which information is being gathered increasingly exceeds capacities for manual analysis and response. And at the other end of the temporal spectrum—the decades it currently takes to design, develop and deploy new complex weapons systems—there is growing appreciation of the need to change the pace, with movement toward nimble, modular, functionally coordinated weapons platforms that can be more rapidly deployed and upgraded than current systems.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.