Does the military promote life outside the base?

Save robots, pay the military

Elrob - short for "European Land-Robot Trial" - is also about smart and independently acting robot vehicles. The difference to EuRathlon? "In fact, that is not evident at the moment," admits Schneider. Because the additional capabilities that a military robot would need in a combat situation are too complex to be demanded from the existing prototypes.

Since 2013, Elrob has been held alternately with its civilian counterpart, the Eurathlon. Which has a very practical advantage: "Universities whose statutes contain a civil clause can also take part in the Eurathlon," says Schneider. After all, 17 German universities, including the technical universities in Berlin, Dortmund, Ilmenau and Darmstadt, have committed themselves to purely civil research goals with such a passage. Technical developments that are clearly intended to serve military purposes are usually expressly excluded.

In fact, none of these universities took part in Elrob in 2014. But one of them is one of the finalists of the Darpa Robotics Challenge 2015: The TU Darmstadt is represented with two projects: In Team Vigir (Virginia-Germany Interdisciplinary Robotics) she works with the company Torc Robotics and the US universities of Oregon State University and Virginia Tech together. The project is financially supported by the US military authorities with a total of 2.4 million euros, of which around 600.00 euros go to Darmstadt - despite the civil clause. The second TU Darmstadt project called Hector does not receive any Darpa funding.

"The declared aim of the Vigir project is robots for disaster relief, but the question arises whether a competition with such clear links to the military fits the Darmstadt civil clause," says peace researcher Altmann. "The Senate of the TU Darmstadt has dealt with our project with regard to the compatibility with the civil clause and after extensive discussion decided that this compatibility is given," replies Oskar von Stryk, professor in the field of simulation, system optimization and robotics. He points out that all interim and final reports as well as the source code of the software developed are published by his working group and are therefore not only accessible to Darpa, but to everyone.