DARPA Awards Contracts for See-Through-Walls Technology

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The emerging tech agency appears to have made at least two awards for that program.

The Pentagon’s research and development agency has made a critical first step in a program that could give soldiers the ability to see through physical barriers.

According to postings on FedBizOpps, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded the University of Minnesota and the University of Central Florida at least $1 million each for a program called Revolutionary Enhancement of Visibility by Exploiting Active Light-fields, or REVEAL. (DARPA did not immediately respond to Nextgov’s request for more details about awardees.)

The program aims to tap into the information stored in photons -- light particles -- to get hints as to what objects or threats might be surrounding a viewer, according to a May blog post describing the project.

“In effect, we want to use mathematical methods to coax from photons a little more of a story about where they’ve been and what they’ve seen,” Predrag Milojkovic, program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office, said in that blog post.

The post described a scenario in which an armed assailant is hiding between a concrete barrier and a brick wall. While a soldier might have been able to see his or her reflection of the assailant if it had been a glass window instead of a brick wall, from a single viewpoint, the assailant would be completely hidden.

But a high-tech system that could interpret the information stored in photons bouncing off the brick wall, could help “reconstruct, from a single vantage point, a complex scene including objects or people not visible by line-of-sight viewing,” that post said.

Other information stored in photons could help troops find “radioactive, biological or chemical threats and camouflaged targets from much farther away than currently possible.”

President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget request would increase the Defense Department’s research and development projects, totaling $71.8 billion, according to a DOD announcement. The budget also set aside funds for “necessary long-term investments in early-stage science and technology,” with about $12.5 billion “to fund future technologies to reshape the battlespace, such as hypersonics, unmanned and autonomous systems.”

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