NATO funds German startup building autonomous war robots

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NATO’s Innovation Fund (NIF) has led a €9mn seed investment into German startup ARX Robotics, which builds unmanned ground robots for the battlefield.  

The startup’s war bots look like small tanks — but without guns. The vehicles drive around on treads, and can be fitted with equipment like radar, mine-sweeping devices, or medical stretchers. 

ARX sells four different machines. The largest carries military payloads weighing up to 500 kg — including injured soldiers — across the battlefield. Another model acts as a moving target-practice device, while another carries drones into combat.

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ARX’s robots can be fitted with equipment like radar, mine-sweeping devices, or medical stretchers. Credit: ARX

The robots are modular, built using off-the-shelf components. Soldiers can configure them on the battlefield within minutes, without tools. The robots are all connected through software and use AI to move around autonomously. Military personel can also control the them remotely, like a drone.

Robot warfare 

“The armies of Western democracies are not prepared for robotic warfare,” said Marc Wietfeld, CEO and co-founder of ARX. “To significantly enhance the capabilities of our armed forces and serve as a force multiplier, an interconnected critical mass of autonomous unmanned ground systems is required.” 

Wietfeld founded ARX in 2022 alongside fellow German army veterans Stefan Röbel and Maximilian Wied. The company has built 12 robots to date, which have been tested by the armed forces of Ukraine, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Hungary. 

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The German army tests ARX’s autonomous robot. Credit: ARX

ARX’s robots are relatively inexpensive (for defence tech), retailing for between €30,000 and €150,000 each. 

“The team at ARX has developed a leading, cost-effective, modular ground system that can be mass-produced and easily deployed in defence, humanitarian crises, and beyond,” said NIF’s Chris O’Connor.  

NIF has a budget of €1bn to back startups developing deep tech for defence and security applications. This marks its second public investment since it launched last year

The first, announced last week, was for iCOMAT, a UK startup building ultralight composites for the aerospace, automotive, and defence sectors.  

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