In robot world, 2004 was a time to get ready. To test out new drone designs. To give the bots a bit of autonomy, and see if they could drive across the desert on their own. To have the machines try on rocket-launchers and smart bombs.All of which sets the stage of a mighty big 2005. That's when gun-toting drones will be heading to Iraq. New control schemes will be unveiled. And robo-racers might even make it more than a few miles into the Mojave.BigDog_pr_small.jpgDRONE DOGGIE BUILT FOR WARA robot dog could one day become a soldier's best friend -- if an Army program works out as planned.WHIRL-A-DRONE BEGINS TO SPIN"Right now, it looks a lot like a Frisbee with four wings," the Wall Street Journal says. But, one day, this early prototype could become "an unmanned aircraft capable of hovering in the same spot for days at a time."KILLER DRONE PLANS REVEALEDThey've served, mostly, as spies. Once in a great while, they've moonlighted as assassins. But now, unmanned aircraft are slowly starting to become full-fledged killing machines -- armed to the teeth, and designed for the deadliest parts of war.ROBO-COPTER: TALK TO ME"See that building over there? Bomb the hell out of it." That's how easy the Pentagon wants commanding its Unmanned Combat Armed Rotorcraft to be.REMOTE CONTROL FOR KILLER DRONESIf you're going to have a bunch of killer drones roaming the skies, you better make damn sure you can control 'em. Pilotless plane promoters have long promised this would be doable. And now, after a series of test flights earlier this month, there's reason to think they're right.TERROR DRONE: NO SWEAT?If you were worried about the drone that Hezbollah flew over Israel the other day, Stratfor has a word for you: chill.ARMED DRONES ROLLING TO IRAQHunting for guerillas, handling roadside bombs, crawling across the caves and crumbling towns of Afghanistan and Iraq -- all of that was just a start. Now, the U.S. Army's squad of robotic vehicles is being prepped for a new set of assignments. And this time, they'll be carrying guns.ARMED ROBOTS, GOOEY SNACKS MADE BY SAME FIRMFoster-Miller, the company behind the armed robots that are about to be shipped off to Iraq, may win the award for the oddest array of expertise, ever. When they're not building gun-toting, death-dealing machines, Foster-Miller scientists are helping make chewy, gooey fruit snacks; training railway workers in staying safe; building bone-growth devices; and testing out new vending machines for Pepsi.SWINGING 60'S DRONE OVER IRAQSure, the Pentagon's latest and greatest drones were there. But Gulf War II also saw the remergence of an unmanned plane that got its start nearly four decades ago.CHALLENGE 1, ROBO-RACERS 0A million dollars waits the winner of the Darpa Grand Challenge, the all-robot, off-road rally across the Mojave Desert, slated for this weekend. But at the rate the race's preparations are going, there may not be a winner at all.ROBOT RACERS CATCH A BREAKThe rules were simple: if drone makers wanted to compete in the Pentagon's million-dollar, robotic, off-road rally, they had to make sure their creations could navigate a mile-long obstacle course first. But when the qualifying rounds began Monday for this "Grand Challenge," run by the Pentagon research arm Darpa, it quickly became clear that only a handful of the bots could pass the exam on the opening day. Now, it looks like just about any robot car will be on the starting line in the desert town of Barstow, California.GRAND CHALLENGE BREAKS DOWNIt looks like all of the robot racers in Darpa's Grand Challenge have broken down in the Mojave Desert.DARPA'S ROBO-RACE FIX: CARS THAT THINKAfter months of hype and twitching buildup, the Defense Department's drone-only rally across the Mojave Desert fizzled. So officials at Darpa, the Pentagon's way-out research arm, are trying to get rolling after the stall out. They way they propose to do it: build cars that can think for themselves.DRONE LOST AT SEAFisherman and divers of Norway: If you see a ten-foot long, robotic mini-submarine swimming off of your shores, please call the U.S. Navy.DUDE, THERE'S MY DRONE!Joy in subville: the U.S. Navy has found its mine-sweeping, torpedo-shaped drone.

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