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DARPA-NGA-Air Force Partnership Moves Forward With Optical Tech Transition; Rohith Chandrasekar Quoted

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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) have begun transitioning metamaterials-based optical technology to multiple projects under the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Seedlings for Disruptive Capabilities Program.

AFRL will implement components developed through DARPA’s Extreme Optics and Imaging program in efforts to develop an unmanned combat aerial vehicle, an electro-optic/infrared sensor and a tube-launched unmanned air system, the agency said Tuesday.

The program commenced in 2016 and sought new engineered optical materials that could manipulate light beyond the laws of reflection and refraction.

DARPA then enlisted NGA’s research directorate in 2018 to incorporate metaoptics concepts into optical UAS hardware as part of NGA-backed projects at AFRL, the Naval Research Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.

“Through the NGA effort, AFRL developed unique capabilities using EXTREME technologies to characterize the optical performance of novel meta-optics and developed new insights into how they could be integrated into a full imaging system,” said Rohith Chandrasekar, program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office.

The laboratory will use the novel optical system to update EO/IR systems on the experimental XQ-58 Valkyrie UCAS and the Air Launched Off-Board Operations platform.