Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

DARPA

Artist's concept of the XS-1 spaceplane

Currently, launching satellites is an involved and expensive process. DARPA’s Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program hopes to make this a thing of the past, by developing a shuttle-like resuable launch system that can turn around from landing to relaunch in one day, and bring down the cost of launching by a factor of 10.  Read More

The Hydra System is composed of several parts: the delivery system, shelters that may rest...

DARPA has floated a fascinating new unmanned systems project that would see undersea motherships launching smaller submarines and flying vehicles to conduct pop-up surveillance on pirates, terrorists and hijackers. The Hydra Project, named after the Greek legend of the multi-headed snake that grew two new heads whenever one was cut off, looks to provide low cost response to quickly changing situations on or near the water.  Read More

Still attached to tethers, the Aeroscraft prototype lifts a short way into the sky as pre-...

After a 70-year absence, it appears that a new rigid frame airship will soon be taking to the skies over California. Aeros Corporation, a company based near San Diego, has received experimental airworthiness certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to begin flight testing the Aeroscraft airship and, as these new photographs of the airship undergoing tethered testing show, the company has wasted no time in getting started.  Read More

HAARP operational site on the edge of Denali State Park northeast of Anchorage, Alaska (Ph...

Reports that the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) had been shut down permanently were apparently a bit premature. According to HAARP program manager James Keeney, the facility is only temporarily off the air while operating contractors are changed. So why does anyone care? Despite being associated with various natural disasters over the past two decades by the conspiracy fringe, HAARP is in reality a facility for studying the ionosphere. Let's take a look at the goings on at HAARP – past, present, and future.  Read More

A researcher manipulates DRC-HUBO's arms to demonstrate its compliant joints

The DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) has scheduled its first physical trial for late December, leaving competing teams less than six months to finish building and programming their robots. In case you're just tuning in, the DRC is a gauntlet of daunting tasks designed to test robots that may someday stand in for people as first responders. DARPA has just revealed the completed ATLAS humanoid, but there's still a half dozen others that remain somewhat mysterious. Now, Team DRC-HUBO is spilling the beans on its own humanoid robot.  Read More

An incomplete version of the ATLAS robot maintains its balance even when hit with a 20 lb ...

DARPA has revealed the completed ATLAS humanoid robot, which is to star in the upcoming DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) – and it cuts a striking figure. Designed by Boston Dynamics (the guys behind the BigDog, Cheetah, and LS3 quadrupeds), it's being given to the top teams that recently competed in the Virtual Robotics Challenge (VRC). Now those teams have less than six months to fine tune their software with the real robot before they face the first of two live challenges.  Read More

Rear view of a simulated ATLAS robot preparing to drive a utility vehicle as part of DARPA...

DARPA has announced the nine winners of its Virtual Robotics Challenge (VRC). The VRC, which ran from the 17th to the 21st of this month, was the first of three events that make up the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) and tasked the 26 competing teams with developing software that would enable a disaster response robot to quickly and successfully perform three tasks that it would likely encounter in a disaster zone.  Read More

A twenty four-stage roughing pump developed at the University of Michigan (Photo: Universi...

Three DARPA-funded research teams have completed a foundational study of chip-scale vacuum pumps by inventing three very different approaches to removing air from a sample chamber with a volume of one cubic millimeter, which is about one-tenth the volume of a grain of rice. These new technologies will enable many micro-scale devices which require a vacuum or a controlled flow of gas, such as Lab-on-a-Chip sensors, radio frequency MEMS switches and microscopic vacuum tubes.  Read More

The Bimanual Dexterous Robotics Platform equipped with Modular Prosthetic Limbs (both deve...

A new bomb disposal robot developed at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) is blurring the line between advanced prosthetics and robotics. Rather than building arms and hands from scratch specifically for the robot, the Bimanual Dexterous Robotics Platform (BDRP) is equipped with artificial limbs designed for amputees. The combination is relatively unique, and provided the team with a secondary use for the Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL) it developed for the DARPA Revolutionizing Prosthetics program.  Read More

Atrist's concept of a PCAS heads-up display

The popular image of modern warfare is the digital battlefield where cyber soldiers have Terminator-like video displays and can call in an airstrike with the shine of a laser beam. While information technologies are revolutionizing the military, when it comes to calling in Close Air Support (CAS), it’s still World War One – where a misread or misheard grid reference can end up with soldiers being hit by their own artillery. DARPA’s Persistent Close Air Support (PCAS) program hopes to improve this.  Read More

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