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Weapon Wednesday – Military’s Threat Detecting/Spy Plants

DARPA, the US military’s arm responsible for developing new military technologies, is developing genetically modified plants that can detect threats and spy discreetly

The program aims to engineer plants to detect certain chemicals, pathogens, radiation, and even electromagnetic and nuclear signals, and use existing hardware such as satellites to monitor these plants.

The smart plants could have applications outside of the military too –  for example to help communities identify undetonated landmines from previous conflicts and testing areas.

DARPA's new Advanced Plant Technologies (APT) program aims to engineer plants to detect certain chemicals, pathogens, radiation, and even electromagnetic and nuclear signals, and use existing hardware such as satellites to monitor these plants

DARPA’s Prototype X-Plane

An artist impression of the full-scale design
An artist impression of the full-scale design (Credit: DARPA)

After several years of development DARPA has successfully completed flight-testing of one of the most novel, and odd-looking, aircraft designs we’ve seen in some time – the sub-scale electric X-Plane.

After calling for an innovative new approach to an aircraft with vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities, DARPA awarded its Phase 2 contract to Aurora Flight Sciences in early 2016. Aurora’s design includes 24 electric ducted fans, 18 on the main wings and six on the smaller front canards. Both the main wings and the canards are designed to tilt upwards for vertical takeoff before rotating to the horizontal for regular flight. read more

Cardboard Single-Use Drone

Once the goods have arrived, the drones biodegrade in a matter of days
Once the goods have arrived, the drones biodegrade in a matter of days

In developing regions where lack of road infrastructure is problematic for those in the business of moving goods, drones are already having an impact. But also problematic is the fact that the people sending drones off to do the courier work kinda need them back again. A new cardboard drone being funded by DARPA won’t concern itself with such limitations, with the ability to deliver vital goods and disappear soon after the job is done. read more

One Shot, One Kill

DARPA Invests in One-Shot Rifle System Capable Under Varying Conditions for Snipers

from:  at The Blaze

DARPA Awards $6 Contract for Development of One Shot Rifle System for Snipers

(Image: Wikimedia)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the military’s research arm, has awarded a San Diego company a multi-million dollar contract to develop a rifle-mounted system that would allow snipers to better hit targets in one shot, as this single shot could be the only one they get.

In its Advanced Sighting System Project, DARPA states that its goal is to “enable snipers to accurately hit targets with the first round, under crosswind conditions, day or night, at the maximum effective range of the weapon.”

DARPA Awards $6 Contract for Development of One Shot Rifle System for Snipers

(Image: DARPA)

For its next-generation, One Shot XG Phase, DARPA is looking for a “significantly smaller ‘field-ready system’ that can be ‘clipped-on’ directly to the weapon, eliminating the need for a spotter/observer in future sniper operations.”

To accomplish this, DARPA recently awarded Cubic Defense Applications a $6 million contract.

“If military snipers could neutralize enemy targets with a single round, they could potentially save many lives,” Steve Sampson, vice president of Advanced Programs for Cubic Defense Applications, said in the company’s statement. “One Shot XG seeks to allow our snipers to immediately obtain downrange crosswind, direction and range to target to provide ballistic corrections.

Using a crosswind measurement algorithm and electro-optic and laser designs, Cubic and its partners expect to take a different approach to this sniper program.

“Cubic has developed both systems and components, from fiber lasers and quantum well modulators to smart cards. One Shot XG will directly benefit from at least a decade of development geared towards state-of the art field-proven MILES combat training products,” Tony Maryfield, program manager and principal investigator for the One Shot XG product development at Cubic, said in a statement.

Attribution: Businessweek

Crank Up the Volume

Forget blasting out your favorite tunes, you could now use speakers to put out a fire. A new video from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) shows how to extinguish burning fuel by trapping it in an acoustic field generated by surrounding speakers.

By using specific frequencies, a fire is killed in a two-pronged attack. First, sound increases the air speed, thinning the layer where combustion occurs and thus making it easier to disrupt the flame. But the acoustics also disturb the surface of the fuel which increases vaporization, widening the flame and cooling its overall temperature.

Whereas typical firefighting techniques disrupt chemical reactions involved in combustion, DARPA has been looking at approaches like this one that exploit physics. Previously, they’ve used an electric field to blow out a flame by creating an ionic wind. They hope to develop these alternatives to help put out fires in military environments, for example in confined spaces, like cockpits and ship holds.

Attribution: New Scientist

I Can See You

Google wowed the world this week with its Project Glass computer glasses – but the U.S. Army is investing in a technology one step ahead.

The Pentagon has placed an order with Innovega for lenses which focus 3D battlefield information from drones and satellites directly into people’s eyeballs.

The tiny ‘screens’ sit directly on users’ eyeballs and work with a pair of lightweight glasses with a built-in translucent screen.

The experience is equivalent to a 240-inch television viewed at a distance of 10 feet, says Innovega’s CEO Steve Willey.

‘Warfighters need to maintain their full vision while on the battlefield,’ says the company. ‘At the same time a tremendous amount of data, graphics and video are collected and are required by specific warfighters in the field.

‘Some is generated from remote cameras, drones, or satellites. Fully transparent video eyewear that is configured into standard issue field glasses would constitute an important step forward. Innovega is actively in partnership to develop this application.’

Crucially, the devices can be worn while moving about – previous bulky ‘VR headsets’ have blindfolded their users and can only be used sitting down.

The effect could be similar to the lenses worn by Tom Cruise in Minority Report.

DARPA – the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, thought of as the American military’s ‘mad scientist’ wing – has been funding research on ‘soldier mounted displays’ for some time, but previous versions have been bulky.

The lenses, made with nano-scale engineering processes,work as a hi-tech focusing device, which allows Innovega’s glasses to be considerably less bulky than previous devices.

The lenses themselves require no power, and thus can sit safely on the eyeball.

DARPA projects are often oddball technology, but it also has a history of far-sighted technological leaps.

DARPA invented the first virtual reality devices, and one of the precursors of the modern internet.

DARPA Says, ‘Innovega’s iOptiks are contact lenses that enhance normal vision by allowing a wearer to view virtual and augmented reality images without the need for bulky apparatus. ‘

 ‘Instead of oversized virtual reality helmets, digital images are projected onto tiny full-color displays that are very near the eye.’

These novel contact lenses allow users to focus simultaneously on objects that are close up and far away.’

Attribution: Daily Mail