DARPA achieves milestone with SWEEPER program

DARPA’s Short-range Wide-field-of-view Extremely agile Electronically steered Photonic EmitteR (SWEEPER) program has successfully integrated breakthrough non-mechanical optical scanning technology onto a microchip. Freed from the traditional mechanical ar | Graphic courtesy of DARPA
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Short-range Wide-field-of-view Extremely agile Electronically steered Photonic EmitteR (SWEEPER) program has been integrated into a microchip, the agency announced on Thursday.
Without the previous mechanical limitations, the SWEEPER program is able to rapidly detect information in an area, by using a laser that sweeps back and forth approximately 100,000 times each second. Prior to this breakthrough, laser-guided detection devices were slow and costly due to the advanced machinery needed to operate, which prevented the technology from being viable for commercial and military applications.

“By finding a way to steer lasers without mechanical means, we’ve been able to transform what currently is the largest and most expensive part of laser-scanning systems into something that could be inexpensive, ubiquitous, robust and fabricated using the same manufacturing technology as silicon microchips,” Josh Conway, DARPA program manager, said. “This wide-angle demonstration of optical phased array technology could lead to greatly enhanced capabilities for numerous military and commercial technologies, including autonomous vehicles, robotics, sensors and high-data-rate communications.”

According to DARPA, despite the slow and costly nature of laser scanning technologies, it was becoming more apparent that many military capabilities were increasingly dependent on them — these include biological and chemical material sensing, autonomous navigation and targeting.

They also announced that the agency will be seeking transition partners as the program's research comes to a close.

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Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency 675 N Randolph St Arlington, VA 22203

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