DARPA WANTS ALL-SEEING BLIMP

blimp_darapatech.jpgConspiracy freaks, hold on to your tin hats. Darpa may have publicly abandoned its creepiest programs, like Total Information Awareness. But the agency, holding its every-18-months conference this week in Anaheim, still has a project to make you run full speed into your bunker.Darpa is starting the planning for a blimp, three times the size of Goodyear's, that would keep watch over an entire city.Sitting at 70,000 feet above groud, the ISIS (short for "Integrated Sensor is Structure") airship would use a giant, flexible radar antennae to give, in the words of Darpa program manager Larry Correy, a "dynamic, detailed, real-time picture of all movement on or above the battlefield: friendly, neutral or enemy.""We will apply this technology to track people emerging from buildings of interest and follow them as they move to new locations," added Darpa's Paul Benda. "Imagine the impact it will have if ISIS tracks the movement of individuals for months. Hidden webs of connections between people and facilities will be revealed."xtrasmall_grand challenge 058.jpgSuch a system is meant to keep tabs on urban battlegrounds abroad, of course. But, like Darpa's "Combat Zones That See" project, there's no reason ISIS couldn't float over New York or Chicago or Kalamazoo.For now, hold off on buying that one-way trip to a secluded Caribbean island. ISIS is futuristic, even by Darpa standards. At the moment, the agency is only studying the feasibility of the airship. Darpa won't even begin soliciting research proposals until 2005.A key problem to tackle: how to store energy for the blimp. Correy figures ISIS will need batteries ten times lighter than today's cells to stay aloft. Building the airship's enormous radar antennae as large as the ship itself is going to be a huge challenge, as well. The lightest space antennae weight 20 kilograms per square meter. For ISIS to work, that'll have to drop at least seven-fold.THERE'S MORE: Darpa invented the Internet. And now, the agency wants to reboot it, Government Computer News reports. Darpa is looking for ways to dramatically revamp the Internet Protocol, which forwards information from one computer to another, and assigns us all a place on the uber-network."Im not advocating throwing out the Internet Protocol completely, but we must absolutely have some mechanism for assigning network capabilities to different users and that capability has to scale to large numbers of devices automatically," Darpa's Col. Tom Gibson said. "The commander wants to be able to send a message and have it delivered, completely, accurately and on time."

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