• Mathematics helps search and rescue ships sail more safely in heavy seas

    Fast ships deliver all kinds of services in fields such as disaster response, the fight against crime, the provision of supplies for oil and gas platforms, and the transportation of wind farm maintenance personnel. Each year, however, around 100 such ships worldwide are lost or damaged in heavy seas, with around 2,500 casualties in 2013. A unique new computer model built on highly complex mathematics could make it possible to design safer versions of the “fast ships” widely used in search-and-rescue, anti-drugs, anti-piracy, and many other vital offshore operations.

  • Identifying national security threats posed by everyday commercial technologies

    For decades, U.S. national security was ensured in large part by a simple advantage: a near-monopoly on access to the most advanced technologies. Increasingly, however, off-the-shelf equipment developed for the transportation, construction, agricultural, and other commercial sectors features highly sophisticated components, which resourceful adversaries can modify or combine to create novel and unanticipated security threats. DARPA’s “Improv” effort asks the innovation community to identify commercial products and processes that could yield unanticipated threats.

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  • Microwave repairs might annihilate zombie potholes once and for all

    Some potholes are like zombies – they never die. Or at least that’s the perception of much of the driving public, especially as we enter peak pothole season: late winter and early spring. Recurring “zombie” potholes are too often a reflection of the type of method that’s used to patch or “fix” them – many of which are short-lived and only marginally effective. Researchers around the world are working to develop better and longer lasting repair alternatives. Microwave technology is not yet a routine method of repair, and it’s best-suited for potholes in asphalt rather than concrete. But this approach merits further consideration. After all, given our nation’s aging network of roads, zombie potholes will continue to flourish. Microwave repair could be an effective method for keeping them at bay.

  • New laser-based aircraft tracking system to aid in disaster relief efforts

    A ground-breaking tracking system called HYPERION, based on eye-safe lasers, could enable aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and even orbiting satellites to transmit vital data to ground stations more securely, quickly and efficiently. HYPERION, offering major benefits compared with the traditional radio frequency (RF) data transmission systems currently relied on in the UAV sector, could allow UAVs engaged in disaster monitoring, surveying, search and rescue, and other humanitarian missions to send detailed images more rapidly back to the ground for analysis.

  • Miniaturized fuel cell makes drones fly more than one hour

    Drones are used for various applications such as aero picturing, disaster recovery, and delivering. Despite attracting attention as a new growth area, the biggest problem of drones is its small battery capacity and limited flight time of less than an hour. A newly developed fuel cell can solve this problem.

  • DARPA announces VTOL X-Plane Phase 2 design

    For decades, aircraft designers seeking to improve vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities have endured a substantial set of interrelated challenges. Dozens of attempts have been made to increase top speed without sacrificing range, efficiency or the ability to do useful work, with each effort struggling or failing in one way or another. DARPA says that its VTOL Experimental Plane (VTOL X-Plane) program aims to overcome these challenges through innovative cross-pollination between fixed-wing and rotary-wing technologies.

  • Four African innovators selected for engineering innovation prize

    Following an open, competitive, application process which saw entries from fifteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa, twelve African entrepreneurs were chosen to receive a package of six months of business training and mentoring from the U.K.’s Royal Academy of Engineering. The four finalists showing the greatest promise have now been chosen, and are in with a chance to become the overall winner. Each will receive at least £10,000 with the grand prize of £25,000 to be awarded at a ceremony in Cape Town on 1 June. A low-cost sustainable water filter system to provide clean and safe drinking water, and a service that allows African mobile phone users to switch easily between multiple mobile networks are among the four African innovations selected by the Academy.

  • Applications solicited for funding of next-gen first-response technologies

    DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) says that applications are now being accepted through 9 March 2016 for the NextGen First Responder Technologies solicitation, an opportunity for joint-funding by DHS S&T and their partners in the Israeli Ministry of Public Security.

  • DHS, DoE, U.S. Army test operational effectiveness of technology solutions

    Understanding the true potential of a new technology comes with the opportunity to deploy it in a real life, urban environment scenario against adaptive adversaries. Recently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) collaborated with the U.S. Army to assess the operational effectiveness of twenty-five technologies through practical application.

  • Making sure that if extraterrestrial observers called, somebody hears

    The question of contact with others beyond Earth is hardly hypothetical, as several projects are under way, both to send signals from Earth and to search for signals that have been sent directly or have “leaked” around obstacles, possibly travelling for thousands of years. As scientists step up their search for other life in the universe, two astrophysicists are proposing a way to make sure we do not miss the signal if extraterrestrial observers try to contact us first.

  • Suicide bomb detector moves close to commercialization with Sandia engineer’s help

    On the chilling list of terrorist tactics, suicide bombing is at the top. Between 1981 and 2015, an estimated 5,000 such attacks occurred in more than 40 countries, killing about 50,000 people. The global rate grew from three a year in the 1980s to one a month in the 1990s to one a week from 2001 to 2003 to one a day from 2003 to 2015. R3 Technologies and a group of other small businesses are developing a way to prevent suicide attacks by detecting concealed bombs before they go off. R3 found a partner in Sandia sensor expert JR Russell who has helped bring the company’s Concealed Bomb Detector, or CBD-1000, close to commercialization over the past two years.

  • New sensor rivals dogs in detecting explosives

    Dogs have been used for decades to sniff out explosives, but now a University of Rhode Island scientist and his team have come up with another way to detect bombs: sensors. The scientist has developed a sensor that can detect explosives commonly used by terrorists. One of these explosives is triacetone triperoxide, or TATP. Triacetone triperoxide has been used by terrorists worldwide, from the 2001 “shoe bomber” Richard Reid to the suicide bombers who attacked residents of Paris in November. The explosive is relatively easy to make with chemicals that can be bought at pharmacies and hardware stores, attracting little attention from authorities.

  • De-icing concrete to improve roadway safety

    Researchers have developed a concrete which de-ices itself by adding a pinch of steel shavings and a dash of carbon particles to a traditional concrete recipe. Though the newest ingredients constitute just 20 percent of the otherwise standard concrete mixture, they conduct enough electricity to melt ice and snow in the worst winter storms while remaining safe to the touch.

  • Technologies enabling automated lookouts for unmanned surface vessels sought

    DARPA’s Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program seeks to develop a new type of unmanned surface vessel that could independently track adversaries’ ultra-quiet diesel-electric submarines over thousands of miles. ACTUV program invites input so future unmanned ships could operate safely near manned maritime vessels in all weather and traffic conditions, day or night.

  • Snake robots learn to turn by emulating real sidewinders

    Researchers who develop snake-like robots have picked up a few tricks from real sidewinder rattlesnakes on how to make rapid and even sharp turns with their undulating, modular device. Working with colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Zoo Atlanta, they have analyzed the motions of sidewinders and tested their observations on snake robots. They showed how the complex motion of a sidewinder can be described in terms of two wave motions — vertical and horizontal body waves — and how changing the phase and amplitude of the waves enables snakes to achieve exceptional maneuverability.