The payoff for DARPA, says Dubois, who helped brainstorm the Grand Challenge strategy, is that it can manifest into intense work by research teams around the country. More than 25 teams have signed up for the event so far. With so many minds working on one aim, the race is the kind of crash project that can deliver real advancements in astonishingly short periods of time, he says: “If DARPA went about it in a conventional way, I can tell you it would cost a lot more than a million dollars.”

Money well spent, indeed.
BETTER, STRONGER, FASTER
DARPA wants the soldier of the future to be better connected to his superiors and comrades-in-arms, and equipped with lighter weapons able to inflict greater destruction. Here are some examples of cutting-edge systems now under development by DARPA-funded researchers.

HIGH-SPEED OPTICAL COMMUNICATIONS NETWORKS.
These would let mobile forces link up without laying cable and tipping off the enemy to their location.

ADVANCED BODY ARMOR.
It wouldn’t just guard against wounds, but also help shoulder heavier firepower.

GUIDED WEAOPNS WITH IMPROVED SENSING DEVICES.
These could find hidden targets — leaving the enemy with nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

MORPHING AIRCRAFT STRUCTURES.
Future planes might literally change shape in flight to accomplish diverse missions.

SAFE PERFORMANCE ENHANCERS.
Via biotechnology, soldiers could become more alert and stronger. And their wounds would heal faster.



a texas-based freelancer, writes about business and technology for such publications as chief executive, american banker, and southwest spirit.

steven dana


is a new york-based artist whose work has appeared in such publications as rolling stone, the new yorker, the new york times, forbes, and ,fortune.