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Caterpillar Illinois

In this June 20, 2012 file photo, earth-moving tractors and equipment made by Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar Inc. are seen in Clinton, Ill. 

DEERFIELD -- A tech company in Israel that builds military and commercial equipment for use in water, earth, air and space plans to deliver dozers built by Caterpillar Inc. into a new dimension: autonomous operation.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) this week announced its winning bid for a contract to convert Cat dozers owned by the Israeli military to autonomously operate. The dozers would complete "complex engineering tasks" in threatened areas, according to a release from the company.

"The autonomous dozer takes us additional step further in providing the necessary readiness level for the future battlefield," said Meir Shabtai, general manager of Robotic Systems Division at IAI. "It allows effective and efficient execution of complex engineering assignments over prolonged periods of time with no human intervention, thus significantly reducing the risk for humans."

Caterpillar's equipment sales to the Israeli military have periodically drawn protests since American activist Rachel Corrie died in 2003 trying to prevent demolition of Palestinian property by the Israel Defense Forces.

The company has been a pioneer in automotive autonomy, developing fleets of mining trucks capable of operating around the clock with precision and without human drivers.

Caterpillar has developed additional autonomous mining equipment and has a program to retrofit mining trucks made by Caterpillar and competing companies such as Komatsu with autonomous systems.

Caterpillar also has developed dozers that can be operated remotely, either on site or from operation centers hundreds of miles away. Company executives over the last year have said Cat is working to develop autonomous capability in its dozers for construction applications.

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