Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is the United States Department of Defense’s agency responsible for the development of emerging technologies to be possibly used for military purposes. The agency was created on February 7, 1958. It was originally known as the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) by then-President Dwight Eisenhower after the Soviet Union launched their Sputnik 1 in 1957. If you want to see cool stuff, check DARPA. Some of their useful and innovative projects were the research and development of the internet, GPS, and the core of Google Maps, to name a few.

Here are some of the interesting ideas:

EATR, Plant-eating robots

Artist’s Concept of the EATR Robot. Credit: Francis Govers III via Popular Science

Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR) was a concept developed between 2003 and 2009 as part of the DARPA military projects. The concept became Robotic Technology Inc. (RTI) and Cyclone Power Technologies Inc’s project, aiming to develop a robotic vehicle that could search and use plant biomass to self-fuel, thus, having an infinite source of energy and operating indefinitely. According to Robotic Technology,

The purpose of the Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR) ™ project is
to develop and demonstrate an autonomous robotic platform able to perform longrange, long-endurance missions without the need for manual or conventional re-fueling,
which would otherwise preclude the ability of the robot to perform such missions. The
system obtains its energy by foraging – engaging in biologically-inspired, organism-like,
energy-harvesting behavior which is the equivalent of eating. It can find, ingest, and
extract energy from biomass in the environment (and other organically-based energy
sources), as well as use conventional and alternative fuels (such as gasoline, heavy
fuel, kerosene, diesel, propane, coal, cooking oil, and solar) when suitable.

There were rumors surrounding that time that the EATR’s diet was not exclusively of the biomass in the environment but also of the human population, which Cyclone Power Technologies CEO Harry Schoell denied in 2009, saying, “We completely understand the public’s concern about futuristic robots feeding on the human population, but that is not our mission.” The project died out and stopped development in 2015.

Houses That Could Grow And Heal Themselves

Don’t you wish houses just grow and repair themselves instead of actually needing to construct and reconstruct them? Say no more because DARPA has the Engineering Living Materials (ELM) program for that.

The concept of ELM was to create materials that could grow, heal themselves, and adapt to their environment through time. It was pretty much the same concept of how the mycelium fungus could grow and fill the shape of the molded form after being fed with agricultural waste. That would solve the difficulties of producing, transporting, and assembling current building materials. As ELM program manager Justin Gallivan in 2016 said, “Imagine that instead of shipping finished materials, we can ship precursors and rapidly grow them on site using local resources.”

It kind of reminds me of the Casita of the Madrigal family in Encanto, only in a bit creepier way.

Spy Bugs, Beyond The Capabilities of Bulky Human Soldiers

Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems project (HI-MEMS) (Photo: robaid.com)

Definitely not related to Ant-Man, DARPA’s spy bugs were parts of the project aiming to implant transmitters in insects to utilize them for surveillance. The 2006 project was officially called the Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (HI-MEMS) program, quite a big name for a project involving teeny tiny buzzers. The researchers from the University of Michigan and Cornell University worked to develop interfaces capable of controlling these little friends’ actions. The ultimate goal: deliver an insect around 5 meters away from a target that was located 100 meters from the insect’s starting point. The unicorn insect was a beetle that could take off and land, turn, and even show other flight behaviors. Here’s the demo:

As written by the International Defense, Security & Technology, Inc. in 2019:

The vision of HI-MEMS— insect swarms with various sorts of different embedded MEMS sensors (like video cameras, audio microphones and chemical sniffers) could penetrate enemy territory in swarms. The HI-MEMS swarms could then perform reconnaisance missions beyond the capabilities of bulky human soldiers.

Admittedly, some of these projects sound too good to be true. Do you know of any other DARPA projects like these? Share them with us!

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