July 02, 2015      

ECA Group has purchased a non-controlling stake in exoskeleton maker Wandercraft and signed an agreement jointly creating a new company. ECA Dynamics will develop humanoid robots for the military market.

Wandercraft's exoskeleton tech

ECA Dynamics will use Wandercraft’s exoskeleton expertise for humanoid robots.

Toulon, France-based ECA Group is a Groupe Gorge company that specializes in aerospace, robotics, and simulation technologies. The company already sells airborne, marine, and land-based drones and supplies nine of the 10 largest armies in the world.

ECA Group is participating in the European Union’s Maritime Mine Counter Measures Program, and its IT180 5TH-U drone is capable of tracking down “malicious drone operators.”

Paris-based Wandercraft was founded by three Ecole Polytechnique graduates in 2012 and is developing an exoskeleton using “hybrid dynamic robotics.” This would enable disabled humans and humanoid robots to walk faster, more energy-efficiently, and more smoothly over varied terrain, according to a press release.

ECA Group will help Wandercraft with production, and Group Gorge’s 3D printing arm Prodways already makes some of the exoskeleton’s parts. The exoskeleton will be demonstrated in September.

ECA Dynamics is intended to combine Wandercraft’s humanoid robotics technology with ECA’s mobile robotics for bipedal or quadrupedal robots for the defense and security markets. Despite the failures at this year’s DARPA Robotics Challenge, ECA expects humanoid robots to eventually be capable of helping and replacing humans for certain tasks.

ECA Group will own 51 percent of ECA Dyanmics, and Wandercraft will own 49 percent. Groupe Gorge reported €223.3 million ($247.67 million) in revenue last year. ECA Group’s first-quarter consolidated revenue was €17.7 million ($19.64 million), thanks to its robotics and integrated systems divisions.

France is working to be a leader in robotics and artificial intelligence. Facebook recently opened an AI lab in Paris, and the Innorobo show is taking place in Lyon this week.