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Darpa: Calling All Robot Enthusiasts

by Brendan McGarry on September 21, 2015

(Darpa photo)

The Pentagon’s research arm wants to award robot enthusiasts $150,000 apiece to crank out prototypes that could support troops.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s new Robotics Fast Track program aims to identify individuals and small business to develop the technology at a fraction of the cost of typical defense contracting programs.

“We spend too much time creating three– to four-year solutions for six-month problems,” Mark Micire, DARPA program manager, said in a press release. “We want this new generation of robotics innovators to see DARPA as a partner that can help them develop breakthrough technologies in the areas that personally interest them and help translate their ideas and know-how into game-changing capabilities.”

Darpa is collaborating with the Open Source Robotics Foundation on the program, which envisions developing prototypes and proofs of concept over the next year, with each effort lasting 6 to 12 months at an average cost of $150,000, according to the release.

Areas of technical interest include the following, according to the document:

  • Expansion and augmentation of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies
  • Leveraging open source, open standards and rapid prototyping capabilities
  • Technologies to greatly improve the agility, speed, endurance and range of robotic platforms
  • Technologies to dramatically advance capabilities related to robotic sensing, perception, planning and communication
  • Technologies that could apply to one or more key military operational domains (air, ground, maritime and space) and/or mission areas (including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, situational awareness, and humanitarian assistance/disaster response)
  • Technologies that could also apply to complementary non-military national security missions (including law enforcement, firefighting and emergency response)

Individuals and organizations interested in participating in the Robotics Fast Track can apply at http://​ow​.ly/​M​E​TJ9. Potential applicants in the greater Washington, D.C., region, can register at http://​bit​.ly/​1​F​Y​H​NWv to hear Micire discuss the program 8 p.m. Tuesday at the TechShop DC-Arlington.

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