The 10 Most Popular DARPA Tech Videos of 2016 (+ 3 Staff Picks)

One of the best places to learn how DARPA is redefining what’s possible is the DARPA YouTube channel. The channel is home to hundreds of videos showing the depth and breadth of DARPA’s research and the amazing people behind it.

All told in 2016, our videos were watched nearly 3.5 million times, and viewers cumulatively spent almost 11 years looking at our footage.

For everyone whose list of New Year’s resolutions includes staying on top of breakthrough technologies for national security (and whose list doesn’t?), a full list of our videos is available at

Meanwhile, here are the ten most popular clips released in 2016, based on the number of views (and three bonus “Staff Picks”):

10. DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge: Final Event Program (August 8, 2016)

(DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge Final Event took place August 4, 2016, in Las Vegas. Seven computers developed by teams of hackers played the world’s first-ever all-machine game of Capture the Flag.)

Learn More about the Grand Cyber Challenge at

9. DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge: Early Highlights from the Competition (August 5, 2016)

(Early highlights from the world’s first all-machine hacking tournament, DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge (CGC).)

8. Welcome to DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge (July 1, 2016)

(The ultimate test of wits in computer security occurs through open competition on the global Capture the Flag (CTF) tournament circuit. In CTF contests, experts reverse engineer software, probe its weaknesses, search for deeply hidden flaws, and create securely patched replacements.)

7. ACTUV/TALONS Joint At-Sea Demonstration (October 24, 2016)

(DARPA’s Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program has developed & built a technology demo vessel. See in Action.)

6. Providing a Sense of Touch through a Brain-Machine Interface (October 16, 2016)

(A DARPA-funded research team has demonstrated for the first time in a human a technology that allows an individual to experience the sensation of touch directly in the brain through a neural interface system connected to a robotic arm.)

Learn More about the Mobius Bionics Luke Arms at


5. GXV-T Mobility Video (April 26, 2016)

(DARPA’s Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T) program seeks to develop groundbreaking technologies that would make future armored fighting vehicles significantly more mobile, effective, safe and affordable.)

Learn More about the Ground X-Vehicle Technologies (GXV-T) at

4. ACTUV Speed and Maneuverability Tests (April 4, 2016)

(DARPA’s Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program has designed, developed and constructed an entirely new class of ocean-going vessel—one intended to traverse thousands of kilometers over the open seas for months at a time, all without a single crew member aboard.)

3. ACTUV Launch and On-Water Speed Tests (March 30, 2016)

(The ACTUV technology demonstration vessel was recently transferred to water at its construction site in Portland, Ore., and conducted speed tests in which it reached a top speed of 27 knots (31 mph/50 kph).

Learn More about the ACTUV at

2. VTOL X-Plane Phase 2 Concept Video (March 3, 2016)

(DARPA’s Vertical Takeoff and Landing Experimental Plane (VTOL X-Plane) program seeks to provide innovative cross-pollination between fixed-wing and rotary-wing technologies and by developing and integrating novel subsystems to enable radical improvements in vertical and cruising flight capabilities.)

1. Fully Loaded Quadcopter Achieves 20 m/s Flight (February 12, 2016)

(DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program recently demonstrated that a commercial quadcopter platform could achieve 20-meters-per-second flight while carrying a full load of sensors and cameras.)

In addition to these Top Ten, the DARPA Public Affairs staff offers the following three Staff Favorites:

  • The LUKE Arm: Fulfilling a Promise to Wounded Warriors (December 23, 2016)

The holiday season brought high-tech offerings for U.S. war veterans this year in the form of sophisticated bionic arms developed under the direction of DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program.

In a ceremony December 22 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, Md., Justin Sanchez, Director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, delivered the first two advanced “LUKE” arms from a new production line—shiny evidence that the fast-track DARPA research effort has completed its transition into a commercial enterprise.

As part of that transition process, DARPA is collaborating with WRNMMC to make the advanced prostheses available to Service members and veterans who are rehabilitating after suffering upper-limb loss.

Learn More at

  • SIGMA Deployment Test of 1,000 Detectors (November 16, 2016)

On a sunny fall day in the nation’s capital, several hundred volunteers—each toting a backpack containing smartphone-sized radiation detectors—walked for hours around the National Mall searching for clues in a “whodunit” scavenger hunt to locate a geneticist who’d been mysteriously abducted.

The geneticist and his abduction were fictitious. But the challenge this scavenger hunt was designed to address is real: The need to detect even small quantities of radioactive material that terrorists might try to bring into an urban area with the intent of detonating a “dirty bomb,” or worse.

By getting volunteers to walk all day looking for clues, the DARPA-sponsored exercise provided the largest test yet of DARPA’s SIGMA program, which is developing networked sensors that can provide dynamic, real-time radiation detection over large urban areas.

  • DARPA’s Space Surveillance Telescope: How It Works (October 18, 2016)

The innovative design of DARPA’s Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) allows for a short focal length, wide field of view, and a compact optical train.

The SST’s mirrors are some of the steepest aspherical curvatures ever to be polished and allow the telescope to have the fastest optics of its aperture class. These features combine to provide orders of magnitude improvements in deep space surveillance.

In addition to its ongoing outreach through the DARPA news page, DARPA in 2016 launched a new podcast series, “Voices from DARPA”.

“Voices from DARPA” is based on the three-pronged truism that technology is a driver of our times; that since its founding in 1958 in the midst of the Cold War, DARPA has been a driver of technology; and that it’s the Agency’s program managers who are the heart and soul of DARPA and who therefore can be the best point of entry for truly understanding what the future will bring.

In each episode, a program manager from one of the Agency’s six technical offices—Biological Technologies, Defense Sciences, Information Innovation, Microsystems Technology, Strategic Technology, and Tactical Technology—discusses in informal and personal terms why they are at DARPA and the breakthrough technologies for national security they are striving to create.

“Voices from DARPA” can be accessed via BluBrry, YouTube, and iTunes.

Curious what other DARPA activities captured the public’s interest in 2016 and even earlier? Go to and Learn More!


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(Videos & content courtesy of DARPA and YouTube)