An Automaton is the Directorate name for a robot or drone - an artificial intelligence housed in a mechanical, non-biological body. Automata perform a variety of tasks, both military and domestic, although in combat applications their widespread use is a fairly recent development. The threat of a Mortis invasion caused massive and widespread development of Combat Automata, a trend which continues to gain momentum. Many military theorists within the Directorate now advocate the replacement of conventional biological military personnel completely with robots and drones, although this proposition shows no signs of coming to fruition.
Automata in civilian applications have largely replaced human workers in areas of unskilled labor and hazardous operations. They perform everything from construction, to hazard and rescue response, to security and bodyguard functions. Automata also supplement most Directorate police forces, and the humanoid enforcer robots of the Office of Central Intelligence are feared throughout Directorate space for their fearsome appearance and silent, unexpected midnight raids on suspected enemies of the State.
Automata were first employed by the Directorate military in non-combat applications, particularly for recon, heavy lifting and field construction. The Mortis assault has, however, forced the widespread application of humanoid "Soldier Automata". These are essentially self-directing suits of powered armor. However, the space normally occupied by a human body is devoted to things such as additional shield generators and redundant components, making Automata both more heavily protected, armed and resilient than their organic counterparts. Most Combat Automata are not true A.I.s, and are not truely intelligent - as opposed to other military A.I.s, which are fully sentient constructs with programmed restrictions. This makes the Automata more resilient to enemy electronic warfare attacks, and they are effectively impossible to reprogram or turn against their Directorate masters. Instead, their "brains" simply shut down in response to any external attack on their processing and they revert to carrying out their last orders. In many cases, the result is that entire battalions of robots will make a last stand against enemy forces and fight until they are all destroyed. Automata are often employed en masse as the first waves in particularly dangerous assaults, and are particularly useful for urban warfare operations. Their programming is adaptable and capable of limited learning - they are also fully capable of both understanding and transmitting information verbally, and they can distinguish "foreign" accents far better than a human ear. As such, they are also quite useful for locating spies who are fluent in idiomatic Directorate Latin, which is the only language they are programmed to understand.