TIME Honors DARPA Projects on 2011 50 Best Inventions List

DARPA’s remotely controlled Hummingbird Nano Air Vehicle (source:

Two DARPA inventions have been named to TIME’s list of the top 50 inventions of the year: The Hummingbird Nano Air Vehicle and the Holographic Sandtable Display.

The Hummingbird is a remote-controlled small robot with rapidly flapping wings that can hover, dive, climb or dart through an open doorway. In weighs less than a AA battery and resembles a live hummingbird and can give war fighters a view of threats inside or outside a building from a safe distance.


“The Hummingbird’s development is in keeping with a long DARPA tradition of innovation and technical advances for national defense that support the agency’s singular mission – to prevent and create strategic surprise,” said DARPA Defense Sciences Office Director Jay Schnitzer.


The Holographic Sandtable Display pioneers an advanced 3-D technology that creates a real-time, color, 360-degree, 3-D holographic display that could assist battle planners.

“The ability to dynamically display three dimensional data and video to an audience gathered around a sandtable – without the need for special glasses or equipment – represents a significant step forward in our ability to more naturally synthesize and interact with a virtual world in an intuitive way,” said DARPA Strategic Technology Office Director Don Woodbury. “With UPSD, DARPA has opened the door to a new approach to training, mission planning and data visualization.”


A team of up to 20 planners can view the UPSD’s large-format, interactive 3-D display. It’s an example of DARPA’s commitment to advancing technology to support the war fighter. Adding fidelity and real-time 3-D terrain data is expected to enhance mission planning.

“Advances at DARPA challenge existing perspectives as they progress from seemingly impossible through improbable to inevitable,” said DARPA Director Dr. Regina Dugan. “At DARPA today we have many examples of people – national treasures themselves – who left lucrative careers, and PhD programs, to join the fight,” Dugan said.  “Technically astute, inspiringly articulate, full of ‘fire in the belly,’ they are hell-bent and unrelenting in their efforts to show the world what’s possible.  And they do it in service to our Nation.”

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