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DARPA Speeding Development Of Complex Defense Systems

Defense research agency launching crowdsourcing, challenge programs to cut the time it takes to develop a next-generation infantry-fighting vehicle by a factor of five.

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The technology research arm of the Department of Defense (DoD) has launched a comprehensive new effort to reduce the time it takes to develop complex defense systems.

As part of a raft of new programs, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will crowdsource designs for a next-generation infantry-fighting vehicle.

The forthcoming crowdsourcing site,, will use metalanguage developed in one of the programs -- called META -- to represent the vehicle designs. Like other open source sourceforge sites, it will include version control and branching features. is expected to be online in the 2011-2012 timeframe, according to DARPA.

META is one of four distinct projects within DARPA's Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) portfolio that are aimed at developing a next-generation infantry fighting vehicle five times faster than it has taken the agency in the past.

META and other efforts -- Instant Foundry Adaptive through Bits (iFAB) and Fast Adaptive Next-Generation Ground Combat Vehicle (FANG) -- individually tackle different components of the development and manufacturing process.

A fourth program, Manufacturing Experimentation and Outreach (MENTOR), is aimed at fostering more interest in distributed design and manufacturing among high school students. MENTOR will use social media so students can collaborate across schools to develop mobile robots, go carts, and other vehicles, according to DARPA. The agency also aims to donate 1,000 3D printers to high schools across the United States in the next three years to encourage development in this field.

MENTOR is in line with other Obama administration efforts to foster science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing interest among students to help the United States become more globally competitive in these areas.

META, launched earlier this year by the agency, is the first AVM program to be up and running. In addition to developing a metalanguage for vehicle design, META also will develop metrics, design tools, and verification techniques to allow for the development of vehicle designs that are correct by construction.

iFAB is a complementary program to META, according to DARPA. It's meant to foster a foundry-style manufacturing approach similar to how modern integrated circuit manufacturing plants work, in that it will allow for automated, adaptable development of a range of products very quickly, according to DARPA.

FANG -- the program that includes vehicleforge -- will leverage both META and iFAB to produce the next-generation infantry vehicle.

DARPA also expects to launch a series of prize challenges once Vehicleforge is online to foster new ideas for infantry vehicles that can be evaluated against Army prototypes, the agency said.