Flamethrowers conjure up some fairly provocative images. The horrifying trenches of World War 1. The island-hopping Pacific campaigns of World War 2. If you want to go the fictional route, think of Ripley confronting the xenomorph queen at the end of Aliens.
Now picture one attached to a robotic dog.
This is the idea behind the “Thermonator,” which is basically a robotic dog with a flamethrower strapped to its back. This fire-spewing beast is designed by Throwflame, a company that manufactures, well, electrically-powered flamethrowers.
Behold the Thermonator in action.
The Throwflame website notes that commercial flamethrowers can be used for such purposes as controlled agricultural burns, melting snow and pest control, which is absolutely true. The Thermonator, though, appears to exist in a fiery hellscape. Emerging from its slumber, it is relentless in its pursuit of … lighting something on fire.
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The “first-ever flamethrower-wielding robot dog” even does a cute little dance when unleashing a stream of fire.
Now, this is strictly a commercial venture, not a military project; You can even put yourself on a waitlist to buy one when Throwflame expects to start shipping them at the end of the year. Perhaps you just need something that will feel no pain, or pity, or remorse as it clears brush in an especially incendiary manner.
But robot dogs in general are an emerging technology on the battlefield. Since 2020, the U.S. military has used robot dogs for everything from enhancing perimeter security at installations to responding to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats.
Indeed, the addition of a flamethrower is just the latest potential weapon system to grace the back of a mechanized hound. At the 2021 Association of the U.S. Army annual convention, Ghost Robotics showed off its robot dog armed with a Special Purpose Unmanned Rifle. In August of that year, there was the appearance in Russia of a robot dog with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher strapped to it. And last year, a video from China emerged showing one of these robotic dogs armed with a light machine gun.
It seems unlikely that the Thermonator will ever end up on a future battlefield. In the meantime, here’s hoping that anyone who gets their hands on a flamethrower-equipped robot dog just really, really needs to get rid of a wasp nest or something.
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