Flocking Drones, Stress-Free Soldiers

Inside Defense's John Liang also spent last week snooping around DarpaTech 2005, the sorta-annual get-together of the Pentagon's mad science division. Here's a bit of what he found. You can check out the rest by giving this link a click.geese_sun.jpg* Birds of a feather. Getting unmanned aircraft to fly in formation is a challenge that still escapes DARPA scientists, according to Tactical Technology Office program manager Tom Beutner. "Formation flight is an idea we know should work," he says. "We see it even in nature, yet while we routinely use formation flight for tactical advantage, it has never been utilized for the full aerodynamic benefit it offers." Flying in formation allows the aircraft behind the leader to conserve fuel by flying in its slipstream, just like geese do when they fly south for the winter. "Only birds now do this routinely, and they can't explain it to us," he said.* Stressed out. DARPA's Defense Sciences Office has been trying for years, now, to figure out how GIs can fight on little or no sleep. Now, DSO officials are looking for ideas on how soldiers can wage war, just about stress-free. The scientists are seeking ways to completely eliminate post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as techniques to map and identify the neural transmitters that cause the brain to feel stress.* Let is snow, let it snow, let it snow (or sleet, or blow sand). DSO officials also want to enhance the human body's ability to adapt to extreme environments. Normally it takes a human several weeks to get used to a new environment; DARPA seeks technologies to speed that process up, as well as to identify the essential building blocks of how such adaptations happen.* Itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny yellow polka dot . . . contact lens? DARPA's Microsystems Technology Office is looking for ideas that would allow a nano-chip to be placed on a contact lens, according to MTO's Dennis Palla. The technology also would allow soldiers to receive and read data from various sources, as well as act as a miniature camera that could transmit what he or she sees back to either the headquarters unit or to other soldiers in the field via a network, Palla says.-- John Liang

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