When the government is looking for a bigger and better bomber, powerful laser weapon, or other serious piece of defense technology, the contracts to build them often go to massive, long-established manufacturers.

Names like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Honeywell frequently come to mind, but companies like theses are not the only ones that DARPA is interested in employing.

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As smaller, startups and university lab teams are now making major contributions to cutting-edge technology, especially in the field of robotics, DARPA is learning that it needs to start to pay closer attention to recently-established, short-term innovators.

Shorter Contacts For Faster Solutions
In an effort to get an edge on rapidly advancing technologies like robotics and 3D printing, which are now becoming more relevant to the military, DARPA is interested in partnering with with more small tech companies, universities, and organizations.

To do so more efficiently, the agency is collaborating with the Open Source Robotics Foundation and Bit Systems to create the Robotics Fast Track (RFT) program.

This program is meant to established a better partnership between tech companies and DARPA, as well foster democratization in robotics development happening here in the U.S., but it also represents a new approach to starting and finishing defense solutions in a much short period of time.

While conventional DARPA projects may focus on a project with a scope of several years, the aptly named Robotics Fast Track program will seek out technology that goes from design and development to finished product with months rather than years.

Solving Challenges And Designing Solutions
RFT aims to accomplish this by setting hundreds of professionals and students to work on solving the biggest defense challenges to date, and letting them explore their own ideas and designs in order to create cutting-edge products.

DARPA, the Open Source Robotics Foundation, and Bit Systems are currently touring the the western United States to spark more interest in the program and is offering grants for projects related to space, maritime, ground, air, hardware, and software advances.

Will this initiative help the U.S. strengthen its tenuous defensive technology lead? Do you think DARPA is taking the right approach by focusing on more short term contracts and smaller innovators?

Could you see the RFT program benefitting your company? Tell us what you think in the comments.

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