Military Connection: DARPA Keeps US Military at the Forefront of Technology.

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By Debbie Gregory.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been busy. Self-steering bullets, designed by DARPA, passed testing earlier this year, and actually adjusted their trajectories to hit moving targets in difficult environments, and from long distances.

The Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) has specially designed ammo that features sensors and a real-time optical guidance system. This will help military snipers hit their targets, despite unfavorable conditions, such as high winds and dusty terrain.

Additionally, tomorrow, June 5th, the final round of the DARPA Robotic Challenge will be held in Pomona, California. The competition features 25 human/robot team of challengers, each trying to complete a simulated disaster-response course in the shortest amount of time.

Each robot will only have a maximum of one hour, under its own battery power, to drive 100 meters, get out of the car, open a door in a building, close a valve, use a tool to cut a hole in a wall, perform a surprise task, negotiate difficult terrain, exit the building and climb stairs to finish. Should the robot fall down, it must get back up without help of any kind.

The competition isn’t all fun and games, with the world’s top robotics organizations participating. The critical goal is to improve how people and robots work together when they’re separated by a significant physical distance, and the communication link between them is severely degraded.

“The Fukushima disaster, caused by the earthquake and the tsunami and then the meltdown at the power plant, was a great inspiration for us,” said DARPA Program Manager Dr. Gill Pratt. “We don’t know what the next disaster is going to be but we know that we have to develop technology to help us address these kinds of disasters,” he said.

To those who observe the robots, they may seem to move slowly. But the tasks they accomplish represent some of the hardest tests of robot software and hardware ever attempted.

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Military Connection: DARPA Keeps US Military at the Forefront of Technology.: by Debbie Gregory