DARPA achieves milestone with SWEEPER program
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.