The Department of Defense is challenging hobbyists around the country to develop commercially available technology into something of a weapon hoping that it will help them protect members of the U.S. Military.
DARPA thinks out of the box
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is called on by the Department of Defense when out-of-the-box thinking is required. While DARPA does good work on its own, the Agency is hoping that by calling on hobbyists to weaponize household object it will get ideas that it had overlooked.
“Use of components, products, and systems from non-military technical specialties (e.g., transportation, construction, maritime, and communications) is of particular interest,” according to a DARPA post explaining what it wants from U.S. citizens. It’s hoped that a number of people will supply ideas that could potentially be used by less traditional forces (terrorists) against U.S. forces and our allies. Now clearly, DARPA doesn’t want a bunch of new weapons being created but ideas that others have that the agency may have overlooked.
While the United States military remains one of the strongest in the world, it’s struggled with “over the counter” technologies being used against it. IEDs and roadside bombs created by enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan worked with devastating effect and caused the majority of casualties in both conflicts. A pressure cooker bomb was put together by two “kids” in order to attack the Boston Marathon. Cell phone detonators, cheap drones being weaponized and other fairly rudimentary devices could potentially be used against the military and DARPA wants your help.
There is no more lining up against your adversary at a predetermined battlefield
“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,” DARPA said in announcing Project Improv in a press release.
While DARPA is hoping for ideas, its lawyers clearly instructed the agency to tell potential biologists, coders, and others to develop ideas that work “within the bounds of local, state, and federal laws and regulations.” While that’s expected in a litigious society, it’s also easier said than done.
DARPA wants individuals and companies to submit ideas and allow DARPA to give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Ideas that DARPA likes will move forward from here and offer $40,000 per submission once in the contest part of the competition. Submissions that make this cut will see the money but also a two-week deadline to build a prototype with the potential for those going forward to receive an additional $70,000.
If after that, DARPA believes the prototype works and sends it forward for evaluations, those chosen will receive another $20,000 and likely a non-disclosure agreement to sign.
The agency (founded as ARPA) was created by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958 as a direct result of the Soviet launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957. The agency is based in Arlington, Virginia and has just under 250 employees working with a budget of around $3 billion. The agency is, of course, closely tied to the military but operates independently of the Armed Forces and answers directly to the Department of Defense management.
While DARPA’s early life mostly concentrated on the Soviet nuclear and space threat, there is little that the group won’t work at including staring at Goats in an attempt to make them explode. The group has achieved a number of military and non-military technologies over its nearly 60 year history.