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Throwflame launches controversial 'Thermonator' flamethrower robot dog

In a move that is already generating significant controversy, Throwflame has begun selling the Thermonator - a four-legged robot equipped with an integrated flamethrower system. The product, with a price tag of $9,420, is being marketed as a versatile solution for wildfire control, agricultural management, environmental conservation, snow/ice removal, and even entertainment effects.



The Thermonator combines Throwflame's existing ARC flamethrower technology with a mobile robotic platform based on the Unitree Go2 quadruped robot. The ARC flamethrower, powered by gasoline or napalm, is mounted on top of the robot "dog" and can unleash streams of fire at targets up to 30 feet away.

According to Throwflame, the robot features LIDAR mapping for navigation, obstacle avoidance, laser aiming assist, and a first-person view camera that allows for remote control via a smartphone app over Bluetooth and WiFi. With the flamethrower attached, the 27kg Thermonator has a battery life of under an hour, half that of the robot alone.

The company first teased the product last summer with promised Q3 2023 deliveries. Now available for purchase, the Thermonator represents a new futuristic paradigm of robotic firepower, for better or worse.

"The future of fire delivery has arrived," Throwflame boldly claims, touting the robot's combination of remote operation, extended range, and high-tech guidance capabilities.

While marketed primarily for utilitarian purposes like controlled burning, this unprecedented melding of robotics and incendiary weaponry is already drawing criticism from security experts and citizen advocacy groups.

"Putting powerful incendiary capability into an unmanned robot system raises a number of very concerning issues," warned robotics policy analyst Zia Manyika. "Issues of uncontrolled fire, potential weaponization and drone attacks, and the psychological effects of this kind of robotic force are all things we should be critically examining."

Indeed, the Thermonator lands in a legal grey area in the US. While regulated at the federal level, flamethrowers are effectively unregulated "tools" in 48 states with only California and Maryland restricting possession. There are currently no specific federal laws governing armed robots like the Thermonator for civilian use.

"We're entering unstable ground in terms of legal and ethical principles," added Manyika. "Policy around public robot uses and armed unmanned systems badly needs to be reformed and catch up with the technology."

Despite the concerns, Throwflame defends the Thermonator as a valuable innovation with practical applications including remote fire control, hazardous material cleaning, roof de-icing, and agricultural prescribed burns. The company stresses that all sales will be carefully vetted to ensure responsible ownership.

As the first units roll out, the Thermonator's impact - both societally and in industries that could benefit from robotic fire capabilities - remains to be seen. But one thing is clear, the boundaries of robotics and unmanned systems have been pushed into uncharted territory, for better or worse.

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