DARPA asks Michigan college to use commercial processes to develop sensors in record time

ARLINGTON, Va., 23 April 2013. Sensors experts at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., are tapping a university on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to find new ways to use commercial processes for sensor development in record time.

DARPA is asking sensors designers at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Mich., to participate in the DARPA Adaptable Sensor System (ADAPT) phase 2 program that seeks to enable companies to develop sophisticated sensor systems in one year or less, rather than three and eight years it takes today to develop military sensors.

The second phase of ADAPT seeks to speed sensor development with commercial processes that typically have not been used in military sensor systems development by avoiding developing sensors from scratch to meet a specific system need in stovepipe fashion.

The DARPA Strategic Technology Office (STO) is awarding Michigan Technological University a $159,594 contract for the program.

DARPA scientists would like to draw from expertise in commercial consumer electronics development that relies on investments in reference designs that demonstrate technology and form the basis consumer electronic products. These reference designs enable consumer electronics systems integrators to develop and upgrade products quickly, DARPA officials say.

The first phase of the ADAPT program developed core sensor hardware and software by capitalizing on commercial smartphone technology, including processors; data storage; fast and low-power communications; GPS navigation; compass, accelerometer, and gyro orientation; sensor and communications interfaces; the Android operating system; sensor management; distributed database and communications protocols; and display utilities.

For the program's second phase, Michigan Technological researchers will try to create reference designs that use this core technology that enable system integrators to develop and deliver new sensor missions in less than 12 months. DARPA may award additional contracts for the program.

The ADAPT phase 2 program has three topic areas: reference designs, reusable core software, and core and ancillary hardware. DARPA primarily is interested in inexpensive open-systems generic reference designs that enable a broad range of systems integrators to develop sensor systems quickly that support several military sensor missions. These reference designs are meant to communicate technical capability, and should use government-furnished ADAPT core technology.

Today the ADAPT program has one reference design in development for unattended ground sensors that demonstrates how the ADAPT core technology can be used in sophisticated, distributed stationary sensor systems of 500 nodes.

Reusable core software seeks to expand existing ADAPT core software capabilities that runs on an ADAPT general-purpose processor, graphics coprocessor, field-programmable gate array (FPGA), radios, and sensor and GPIO interfaces.

Core and ancillary hardware seeks to enhance existing ADAPT core hardware, and should be designed and manufactured using commercial processes. Power consumption is a significant consideration. ADAPT phase 2 demonstrations are scheduled for spring and summer 2014.

For more information contact Michigan Technological University online at www.mtu.edu, or the DARPA Strategic Technology Office at www.darpa.mil/Our_Work/STO.

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