Battlefield medics frequently only have a brief window of opportunity to treat an injury before it’s fatal or causes permanent disabilities, and it’s frequently so fleeting that there’s not much they can do. DARPA is exploring an unusual solution to that problem: slow the biological processes to give medics more room to breathe. Its new Biostasis research program aims to bring cell activity to a near halt by using biochemicals that control energetics at the protein level. If animals like tardigrades and wood frogs can stabilize their cells to survive freezing and dehydration, similar techniques might offer more time to medics who want to treat wounds before a victim’s vital systems break down.
A powerful and controversial new genetic engineering technology called a gene drive offers the potential to drastically reshape our world by overriding natural selection. And the US military’s research arm is among one of the technology’s biggest research funders.
Earlier this month, a frightening report warned of an antibiotic-resistant superbug which might kill as many as 10 million people worldwide by 2050. Now it looks like the first case of that superbug has been documented in the US.
DARPA is working on a new terrifyingly-named “Gremlins” program to develop swarms of small, reusable drones deployed from aircraft over “denied” zones with the intention of intelligence gathering, radar jamming, and other “friendly” operations… for now.
DARPA’s VTOL X-plane initiative takes a cocktail of totally innovative technologies and puts them together in one aircraft design that could very well solve some of the chronic limitations of vertical takeoff and landing capable aircraft. Oh, and it’s a design so radical it looks like something that may not be from this planet.
Sometimes, the best things are those that can be easily left behind. For rescue missions, whether battlefield or natural disaster, DARPA envisions using lightweight, cheap, and expendable single-use drones that can carry supplies to those in need and, once their mission is complete, fall apart into disposable uselessness. Building on VAPR, which wanted electronics that fell apart on command or when introduced to water, DARPA’s new ICARUS program reaches for the sky and hopes to fall apart before it gets there.