DARPA announced that it has created a tiny 2D optical phased array that is believed to enable new light amplification for detection and ranging (LADAR) applications.
LADAR, often also referred to as LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging), is used as an alternative to RADAR and uses optical remote sensing instead of radio frequency waves. One of the advantages of LADAR is the fact that it delivers greater detail and enables applications such as fast 3D mapping. The problem of LADAR is delivered accuracy and speed.
According to DARPA, their LADAR chip is a "breakthrough" achievement due to its small size, the number of antennas and the integration of electronic and photonic components onto a single chip. DARPA did not say how the chip will be used other than it will lead to "new capabilities for sensing and imaging". In commercial applications the chip could improve application in agriculture, biology, geology, robotics, surveying and spaceflight.
Current military LIDAR application include the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS), the Long-Range Biological Standoff Detection System (LR-BSDS), as well as unmanned aircraft, such as the Boeing AH-6.