The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is asking for your help in turning what may seem like benign appliances or electronics, into weapons and other “unanticipated security threats.”
The idea is to uncover ideas for weapons made from easily accessible products that could be used to threaten its current military operations, equipment, and personnel.
In an effort to gain a better understanding of the kinds of improvised weapons, devices, and systems that could be used, DARPA is inviting everyone, from professional weapon-makers to “skilled hobbyists,” to think of the best ways to turn off-the-shelf items into weapons or systems that could be used against the U.S. military and its allies.
The new program, called “Improv,” is seeking proposals from people who have ideas for rapidly and cheaply prototyping these products. The rules are straightforward:
“Proposers are free to reconfigure, repurpose, program, reprogram, modify, combine, or recombine commercially available technology in any way within the bounds of local, state, and federal laws and regulations.
“Use of components, products, and systems from non-military technical specialties (e.g. transportation, construction, maritime, and communications) is of particular interest.”
Watch this report from NewsBeat Social about the project:
The proposals need be taken from a concept to a fully working prototype within 90 days. John Main, the program manager who will oversee the new effort, said:
“DARPA’s mission is to create strategic surprise, and the agency primarily does so by pursuing radically innovative and even seemingly impossible technologies.
“Improv is being launched in recognition that strategic surprise can also come from more familiar technologies, adapted and applied in novel ways.”
The idea is to make potential improvised threats, focused on a tight budget and a tight deadline. Selected teams will then compete against each other during a short DARPA-funded feasibility study phase (with up to $40,000 funding per individual awards).
They will then have only two weeks to construct a prototype. The teams will receive up to $70,000 in additional funding, and also up to $20,000 for provisioning for the evaluation test. Winning teams have a chance of being selected to do a follow-up study on the development of countermeasures to the improvised technologies.
Main explained why DARPA has taken this new step:
“DARPA often looks at the world from the point-of-view of our potential adversaries to predict what they might do with available technology.
“Historically, we did this by pulling together a small group of technical experts, but the easy availability in today’s world of an enormous range of powerful technologies means that any group of experts only covers a small slice of the available possibilities.
“In Improv we are reaching out to the full range of technical experts to involve them in a critical national security issue.”
So, here’s your chance to build that pencil into a weapon of mass destruction, and get your foot into DARPA’s door. The program is open to all, including foreign nationals.