February 16, 2009 Expected to survive autonomously for extended periods of time in hostile conditions, Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) could be seen as decidedly unglamorous in comparison to their airborne cousins – and none more so than the proposed Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR) from Robotic Technology, which will suffer the indignity of ingesting and expelling biomass to fuel itself, presumably with no toilet paper. Scatalogical humor aside, it's a remarkable project which promises to greatly extend the capability of unmanned roving bots with researchers estimating that 150 pounds of vegetation could give it enough juice for 100 miles of driving.

The Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot is part of a project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), for both “civil and military” purposes. The bot will contain an autonomous control system; a robotic arm; an engine system consisting of a biomass combustion chamber, a Stirling engine, a multi-cell rechargeable battery and a platform system for mobility.

Sensors in the robot will allow it to recognize bio-material, which its robotic arm has enough articulation to pluck, place in the combustion engine.

EATR will excel in long-term, tedious and hazardous tasks, like the search for nuclear facilities and border patrol.

Kyle Sherer