Defense Research Agency Offers a Glimpse under the Veil

Attention, defense contractors. A new report from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency lists nine of the agency's top strategic research initiatives, each promising to break new ground in various aspects of networking, aerospace, robotics and other technologies. Network World magazine's "Level 8" blog highlighted the report on Monday. "The report states the programs will lead to revolutionary, radical high-payoff (and many times high-cost) technology advances," according to the blog. Many of the projects require advances in robotics – the pursuit of which was described in a recent Knowledge at Wharton article titled, "Making Robots More Like Us."

Several of the initiatives aim to remove humans from the battlefield and sky above. There are small robots that would array themselves to form ground-based communications networks, a robotic mule to carry hundreds of pounds of gear that would otherwise be on the backs of troops; an unmanned ground combat vehicle; and a high-altitude, pilotless solar-powered aircraft that could remain aloft for years without refueling. The projects are at varying levels of development – a prototype of the mule is being tested, but the solar powered aircraft will require advances in photovoltaic technology.

Such defense developments are tracked regularly in the Wharton Aerospace and Defense Report, produced by Knowledge at Wharton and Wharton's Aresty Institute of Executive Education.