DARPA invites next wave of EW, sensor tech

The Pentagon's research arm is looking for new way to manage the spectrum and tactical sensors that can analyze information as it comes in.

The Pentagon is looking for the next wave in warfighting technologies, inviting industry to offer ideas in key areas, such as dealing with the electromagnetic spectrum and ways to manage the flood of data collected by its growing number of sensors.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is staging a Proposer’s Day Sept. 20 to solicit information on what it calls “revolutionary advances” for its Microsystems Technology Office, forcing on three key areas: spectrum and physics interfaces, tactical information extraction and the globalization of technology.

Those areas reflect what the Defense Department has identified as key areas of concern, and one it needs to keep up with in the fast-developing technology world.

Spectrum and physics interfaces. Calling the spectrum the “sixth domain of modern warfare”—a declaration DOD has pondered but hasn’t made official—DARPA noted that the military’s ability to conduct operations in the other domains of land, sea, air, space and cyberspace depends on its ability operate in the spectrum, which is increasingly congested and contested. The military has explored options for making better use of the spectrum, from spectrum sharing to new approaches such as “radio whispering,” but DARPA said it is interesting in new research such as that into  hardware components that can create maximum flexibility, machine learning for spectral reasoning and fast development cycles for fielding complex systems.

Tactical information extraction. The wide array of sensor systems DOD uses brings in a bounty of information, but making use of all that data in time to make effective decisions has proved to be a challenge, both in terms of data analytics and the power demands on deployed systems and networks. DARPA is looking for new tactical sensors that can perform “selective attention,” collecting and transmitting only relevant signals in areas where strong network signals or cloud-based analytics are not available. The agency said it is interested in adaptive, embedded computing that can deliver real-time data fusion.

Globalization. DARPA notes that, for all of DOD’s efforts in developing cutting-edge microelectronics technology, the field has gone global and increasingly commercial. DOD wants to ensure secure access to that commercial supply chain, while also its own circuit-development timelines in developing innovative techniques for military systems.

In its solicitation, DARPA had asked for one-page submissions by Aug. 22.  The Proposer’s Day will be held at its headquarters in Arlington, Va., with registered participants having the option of attending in person or via webcast.