DARPA Projects to Watch in 2015

Sikorsky VTOL X-Plane Concept_b

The Pentagon's research and development arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is out with a list of its 10 most popular stories from 2014.

Here at DefenseTech, we want to see more of all of these stories in the New Year. Indeed, we hope to interview the managers, engineers and tinkerers who are working on some of these projects to better understand their potential defense applications.

The following five are the ones we're particularly excited about in the realm of weapons technology and plan to keep an eye on in 2015:

Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) X-Plane


Like firms and the Army, DARPA wants to develop a new breed of helicopter that can fly as fast as 400 knots, or about 460 miles per hour, and carry a load of at least 40 percent of the airframe's weight. It plans to review preliminary designs in September 2015, with the goal of selecting one for a prototype that could fly as early as 2017.

Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES)


Similarly, the agency is exploring the idea of building an unmanned aerial logistics system that could bypass roadside bombs and other ground threats. Last year, it settled on a design from Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works lab for a drone aircraft that could be controlled by troops using mobile phones or rugged tablets.

Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T)


DARPA also wants a new generation of ground vehicles with more mobility and survivability -- but less armor, which "is becoming increasingly burdensome and ineffective against ever-improving weaponry." It wants smaller, stealthier vehicles that can avoid detection and even attack.



The agency broke ground in 2014 when a 200-pound man climbed a 25 foot wall of glass -- while carrying an additional 50-pound load -- using paddles inspired by the Gecko lizard. The devices were made with a polymer microstructure developed by Draper Laboratory designed to mimic the adhesive properties found on Gecko toes.

Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO)


DARPA also earlier this year successfully steered .50-caliber bullets fired from a sniper rifle in mid-flight to hit predesignated targets. The special ammunition and guidance system helped "track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors," according to the agency.

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