Company Says No 'Flesh-Eating' Ground Drones

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The Pentagon has shown it has a great appetite for drones and robots -- everything from missile-firing UAVs to prototype patrol-bots guarding air base perimeters.

But a Maryland company working on a program for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, has the idea of giving the robots their own appetites, letting them feed on biomass as a means of fueling themselves.

But as the image of flesh-eating drones refueling off the battlefield dead has spread in recent days, Cyclone Power Technologies of Florida, the company developing the robot's engine, has issued a statement about the Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot's -- aka EATR -- diet.

It is vegetarian, the company said in a press statement released Thursday, in response to stories with headlines such as "Dawn of the corpse-eating robots?" and "Pentagon contracts company for flesh-eating robots."

"We completely understand the public's concern about futuristic robots feeding on the human population, but that is not our mission," Harry Schoell, chief executive officer of Cyclone, said in the statement. "We are focused on demonstrating that our engines can create usable, green power from plentiful, renewable plant matter. The commercial applications alone for this earth-friendly energy solution are enormous."

EATR is being developed by Robotic Technology Inc. of Maryland under a program sponsored by DARPA. EATR is envisioned as a robotic platform able to conduct long-range, long-endurance missions without the need for manual or conventional refueling, Cyclone explained in its statement.

Cyclone said RTI's EATER will be able to find, ingest and extract energy from biomass -- that is, "twigs, grass clippings and wood chips -- small, plant-based items for which RTI's robotic technology is designed to forage.

"Desecration of the dead is a war crime under Article 15 of the Geneva Conventions, and is certainly not something sanctioned by DARPA, Cyclone or RTI," the company said.

-- Bryant Jordan

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