Published July 16, 2009
A steam-powered, biomass-eating military robot being designed for the Pentagon is a vegetarian, its maker says.
Robotic Technology Inc.'s Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot — that's right, "EATR" — "can find, ingest, and extract energy from biomass in the environment (and other organically-based energy sources), as well as use conventional and alternative fuels (such as gasoline, heavy fuel, kerosene, diesel, propane, coal, cooking oil, and solar) when suitable," reads the company's Web site.
But, contrary to reports, including one that appeared on FOXNews.com, the EATR will not eat animal or human remains.
Dr. Bob Finkelstein, president of RTI and a cybernetics expert, said the EATR would be programmed to recognize specific fuel sources and avoid others.
“If it’s not on the menu, it’s not going to eat it,” Finkelstein said.
“There are certain signatures from different kinds of materials” that would distinguish vegetative biomass from other material."
RTI said Thursday in a press release:
"Despite the far-reaching reports that this includes “human bodies,” the public can be assured that the engine Cyclone (Cyclone Power Technologies Inc.) has developed to power the EATR runs on fuel no scarier than 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."
EATR will be powered by the Waste Heat Engine developed by Cyclone, of Pompano Beach, Fla., which uses an "external combustion chamber" burning up fuel to heat up water in a closed loop, generating electricity.
The advantages to the military are that the robot would be extremely flexible in fuel sources and could roam on its own for months, even years, without having to be refueled or serviced.
Upon the EATR platform, the Pentagon could build all sorts of things — a transport, an ambulance, a communications center, even a mobile gunship.
In press materials, Robotic Technology presents EATR as an essentially benign artificial creature that fills its belly through "foraging," despite the obvious military purpose.