DARPA Chief Touts Artificial Intelligence Efforts


The United States is no laggard on investment and advances in artificial intelligence technologies, Steven Walker, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, told reporters on Thursday, disputing assertions by top U.S. technology executives that China was racing ahead.

Watch DARPA's robot arm catch a drone in mid-air

Popular Science

DARPA boasts that the system can snag a "full-size" drone, but don't expect it to catch any Predators. SideArm can snag a drone as heavy as 1,100 pounds, which means it's not quite strong enough to catch the plane-sized Predator or its larger siblings. There already exist rail-and-hook systems to catch small and medium-sized drones like the ScanEagle. In those systems, the drone deliberately flies into a tall net, halting its momentum. DARPA's experimented with alternative landing and launching systems before, like this quadcopter-launching body and sky hook, with modest success.

DARPA tests parasailing radar with its robotic boat


If you want a vision of what naval battles could look like in the near future, you just got it. DARPA has tested a parasailing radar array (part of its Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems project, or TALONS) using its robotic ACTUV boat as a nest. The array flew up to 1,000 feet, where its sensors were far more effective than they'd be at ship level. Its surface tracking radar had six times the range, and even a handheld radio covered three times its usual distance. The combination could lead to unmanned warships that not only travel for months on end, but can easily detect potential threats before they're in firing range.

AI Next Campaign


For more than five decades, DARPA has been a leader in generating groundbreaking research and development (R&D) that facilitated the advancement and application of rule-based and statistical-learning based AI technologies. Today, DARPA continues to lead innovation in AI research as it funds a broad portfolio of R&D programs, ranging from basic research to advanced technology development. DARPA believes this future, where systems are capable of acquiring new knowledge through generative contextual and explanatory models, will be realized upon the development and application of "Third Wave" AI technologies. DARPA announced in September 2018 a multi-year investment of more than $2 billion in new and existing programs called the "AI Next" campaign. Key areas of the campaign include automating critical DoD business processes, such as security clearance vetting or accrediting software systems for operational deployment; improving the robustness and reliability of AI systems; enhancing the security and resiliency of machine learning and AI technologies; reducing power, data, and performance inefficiencies; and pioneering the next generation of AI algorithms and applications, such as "explainability" and common sense reasoning.

DARPA wheels change from tires to tracks without stopping


Travel across difficult terrain usually involves a lot of compromise. Tracks will get you where you need to go, but they're slow whenever you're covering open ground. DARPA, however, doesn't think you should have to make that choice. It's working with Carnegie Mellon University on Reconfigurable Wheel-Track technology that converts wheels from tracks to tires (and vice versa) in the middle of a drive. As you can see in the clip below, the change takes just two seconds -- you could drive off the road and up a hillside without skipping a beat.