DARPA’s Ongoing Innovations in Defence

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – forty years ago – invented with a new technology called ARPANET, which transferred digital data packets between computers through a virtual network, and replaced the conventional point-to-point telecommunication circuits.

And therein lays the genesis of the Internet.

DARPA was founded in the US as a response to the (former) USSR’s Sputnik launch, and has ever since made some of the most exotic and futuristic technologies that later were commercialized.

And below are some of the ongoing DARPA-funded research works that would revolutionize current systems.

Atomic GPS

The DARPA had a limited role to play in the invention of the Global Positioning System (GPS).

Currently, several GPS satellites today in orbit transmit important terrestrial information for both Defence and commercial uses.

However, maintaining GPS systems have proven expensive. It takes a few hundred million in USD to maintain a modern GPS satellite.

The DARPA-funded Chip-Scale Combinatorial Atomic Navigation (C-SCAN) and Quantum Assisted Sensing (QuASAR) initiatives use atomic physics better sensing.

It measures the Earth’s magnetic field acceleration and understands how the latter’s position is affecting individual atoms in order to navigate without a satellite.

This new technology could give geo-location awareness 1,000 times more accurate than any system currently in existence.

C-Scan and QuASAR would give soldiers and equipment better situational awareness, and more accurate guidance for missiles.

A drone/missile with a quantum compass wouldn’t require satellite navigation, which would make it much easier to fly and less hack-able.

Apart from being useful for defence establishments, the atomic GPS would also find civilian applications, such as privacy.

A phone using Atomic GPS wouldn’t have to receive signals from space anymore to establish location. This would make it (probably) unhackable.

Anti-Virus for Internet of Things

As per CISCO, the earth will host 50 billion interconnected devices through the Internet of Things. But anything with a processor can be hacked. Well, nearly.

DARPA’s High Assurance Cyber Military Systems (HACMS) program, announced in 2012, is working to patch security vulnerabilities that could pervade IoT, especially in the defence sector.

HACMS aims at making military vehicles including drones impenetrable against viruses and other malware programs from the outside.

Industrial cyber security catastrophes such as Stuxnet – originally a virus meant to target “illegal” nuclear tests in Iran – will be averted.

Experts suggest that without multilayer security, the IoT would never reach its full potential. And DARPA is on the job.

Rapid Threat Assessment

Military organizations throughout history have contributed to drug development, research and discovery.

DARPA’s original concept called the Rapid Threat Assessment (RTA) program is one such initiative that aims to speed the process of diagnosis and drug discovery.

Drug discovery and analysis of diseases takes decades to show results. But DARPA wants to change that. RTA will enable researchers to detect diseases and help discover drugs within 30 days of the disease’s exposure to a human cell.

It works by mapping the complete molecular mechanism through which a threat agent, such as a virus, alters cellular processes

This would give researchers the framework with which to develop medical countermeasures and mitigate threats.

But would that help us right now? To give a clearer perspective, it took years and a lot of capital to figure out that the H5N1 bird flu virus became much more potent and contagious with the presence of a particular amino acid in a specific position., which is what enabled it to live in mammalian lungs and, thus, potentially be spread by humans via coughing and sneezing.

Knowing this secret earlier would have reduced the death toll. And DARPA’s RTA would do exactly that – figure out the molecular mechanisms of a certain disease to prevent pandemic.

For the Defence industry, if successful, the RTA could neutralize any chemical or biological weapons used against the armed forces on field.

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