Makes DARPA networks 100 times faster

60 years of DARPA Technological advances: The ARPANET for the Atlas robot

60 years of DARPA Technological advances: The ARPANET for the Atlas robot

Since 1958, DARPA has been credited with developing some of the major technologies in use today, including the Internet and GPS. Here you can see the 60-year history of DARPA and some important projects in electrical engineering.

In 1957, the world heard the heartbeat of the first satellite put into orbit - an achievement that the USSR reached at the height of the Cold War.

During this time, both the US and the USSR competed (sometimes in the truest sense of the word) for the higher level to show who was the most technologically superior and thus a true world superpower.

Sputnik 1 orbited the planet, making the world aware of its presence, and creating an urgent need for the White House during the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

One of the responses to Sputnik 1's orbit was the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) by the United States. The agency's goal was to bring the US back to the forefront of technological innovation and ensure that its military technology was cutting edge with no further surprises. "Defense" would later be added to the title of the agency now known as DARPA.

The agency has worked outside of typical research and government processes to ensure the ability to develop and develop new ideas quickly, reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense. DARPA does not have its own employees, but rather assigns short-term research contracts to project managers who are scientists at other research institutions.

Since 1958, DARPA has been credited with developing some of the major technologies in use today, including the Internet and GPS. Here you can see the 60-year history of DARPA and some important projects in electrical engineering.

TV and infrared observation satellites AKA TIROS (1959)

The TIROS project would bring together multiple agencies, engineers, and scientists to develop a satellite that could monitor weather from space - the partnership that included ARPA, NASA, NOAA, and the Department of Defense.

When TIROS 1 was launched in April 1960, it became the first dedicated weather satellite in orbit and provided over 20,000 photos for weather analysis and storm tracking.

Image courtesy of DARPA.

TRANSIT (1960)

TRANSIT was a cooperation between ARPA, the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University and the US Navy to enable satellite-based position determination.

The technology for TRANSIT was based on the knowledge that the position of a satellite could be determined relative to a receiver due to the Doppler effect of radio emissions. This system was a precursor to GPS that didn't become available until the mid-1990s.

The computer mouse (1964)

Human-computer interaction has been a relatively important research area for ARPA, and new ways of connecting to computers have been explored regularly. The first computer mouse was developed in 1964 by Douglas Engelbart, who also worked on ARPANET. The mouse was made of wood and had only one button.

Image courtesy of DARPA.

First self-navigation robot (1966)

Navigation is an important aspect of robotics research and extremely sophisticated systems exist today that allow even an underwater vehicle to navigate and map completely unknown caves without the need for assistance from an operator.

However, in 1966, a self-steering robot was still a science fiction concept. Charles Rosen from the Stanford Research Institute submitted a proposal for DARPA support in a self-navigating robot. In the early 1970s, Shakey the Robot came with stepper motors, a TV camera, a range finder, and radio communications and was able to navigate a number of rooms on its own.

Image courtesy of DARPA.

ARPANET (1969)

One of the most famous technological contributions from DARPA is of course ARPANET - the forerunner of the modern internet.

ARPANET was born from several ideas, but the first was JCR Licklader's 1963 memorandum on an "intergalactic network" that could allow computers to share resources over a time-share network. Licklader planned a network that would be trouble-free.

The TCP / IP protocol would soon be developed and several nodes would be installed in universities in the US and Europe. The first message sent over the internet would be "lo" - an error when trying to send "login". Of course, technology was improved and eventually adopted by the public, and today the Internet is one of the most important infrastructures in history.

Gallium arsenide (1970)

Materials science is an important research area for electronics development - faster, cooler and more efficient chips are possible with novel materials. In the 1970s, DARPA began research into gallium arsenide, which promised the properties desired for electronics. It allowed transistors to work faster and enabled the miniaturization of the GPS receiver. However, due to the price differences between the two, silicon continued to be the preferred chip material.

Personalized-Assistant-That-Learns (2002)

It may seem strange, but the technology behind Siri and Alexa came from DARPA-funded military research to make decision-making more effective and efficient. The idea was that relevant information could be curated and presented so that actions could be better coordinated and carried out in a timely manner. The technology continues to be used and improved for military purposes, and has branched into commercial applications too, making personal assistants available everywhere from your smartphone to many modern cars.

LIDAR operations at high altitude (2010)

LIDAR is a useful, optically based, 3D mapping and obstacle detection technology that is widely used in robotics, autonomous driving, and unmanned aerial vehicles. However, through a DARPA partnership, the US military is also using LIDAR to create high-resolution 3D maps of aircraft.

In particular, the HALOE system is 100 times faster than a typical LIDAR mapping system, which can map half of Afghanistan in just 90 days. This task would otherwise take 30 years with a typical LIDAR system.

Image courtesy of DARPA.

Atlas Disaster Response Robots (2013)

Boston Dynamics is now fairly well known within the robotics community. Your robots are sophisticated, stable systems that can backflip, walk, and are resistant to bumping or tipping over. Her movements have a natural appearance, a great technical masterpiece.

Atlas was developed as a result of the DARPA Robotics Challenge, which encouraged the creation of robots that can assist people during disasters.

These are just a few highlights from DARPA's successes. What are your favorites that are not mentioned here? Let us know in the comments below.

Selected image courtesy of DARPA.