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The German and Spanish killbot industries, struggling to recover from the loss of the "Barracuda" demonstrator plane, which crashed last year, might be saved by the German government. Reports suggest that German defence authorities may offer "assistance in kind" for the building of a new Barracuda.

The original Barracuda was built as a testbed by European arms/aerospace corporate Goliath EADS (European Aeronautics Defence and Space), famous for the Eurofighter among other things. EADS has tentacles across Europe, but its core military operations centre on Spain and Germany. With France leading the Neuron flying stealthdroid project and the UK going it alone with Project Taranis, the Germans in particular seemed not to have a partner for the deathbot dance. Spain remains part of Neuron, but was also willing to cover all bases and team up with Germany.

The Barracuda before it lived up to its name.

So EADS' German and Spanish operations worked together to build Barracuda, which made its first flight last year. The following September, the demonstrator crashed into the sea off Spain - apparently due to software problems.

"This is seriously bad news for EADS, which looked to be lagging behind its European rivals in flying advanced unmanned systems even before the Barracuda mishap," commented Craig Hoyle of Flight magazine at the time, noting that most of EADS' rivals had already built company-funded prototypes.

Most aerospace analysts reckon that the unmanned aircraft market will develop into big money in coming decades, and suggest that no serious player can afford to be left out.

There's a glimmer of hope for EADS now, however, with Hoyle reporting in Flight today that EADS may be contemplating an arrangement with the German defence ministry under which another Barracuda might be built. The company would probably provide most of the funding, but there might be technical assistance and other help "in kind" forthcoming from the government. ®

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