Page last updated at 01:10 GMT, Tuesday, 14 July 2009 02:10 UK

Australia seeks new army robots

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

An Australian soldier in Afghanistan. File photo
Australia wants to build a robot that can replace soldiers in war zones

Australia has launched a multi-million dollar competition to build a new generation of military robots.

The winning design must help soldiers fight by remote control in urban combat zones, defence officials say.

The aim is to reduce casualties in urban areas where fighting is unpredictable and treacherous.

The competition is being run by Australia's Defence Science and Technology Organisation in partnership with the US military.

'Dirty work'

The government wants to develop an "intelligent and fully autonomous system" capable of carrying out dangerous surveillance missions.

Senior officials in Canberra have said they hope that unarmed robotic vehicles will do some of the army's "dirty work" in such hazardous theatres.

The ultimate plan is for groups of these sophisticated machines to be sent into battle to help neutralise the enemy.

Research grants of $1.6m (£984,000) have been offered in this joint Australian and American competition. Five shortlisted applicants will be invited to present their ideas at a Land Warfare Conference in Brisbane in November next year.

Before they get to that stage they will have to prove that their prototypes can do the job at a defence base in South Australia, where they will be judged by an international panel of military experts.

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