- "I can't believe I'm the same model as that Imperial drone."
- ―AP-5, on PZ-7
The RA-7 protocol droid, also known as the RA-7 inventory droid, the RA-7 series protocol droid, the "insect droid" due to its large photoreceptors, and nicknamed the "Death Star droid" due to its use aboard the first Death Star, was a model of protocol droid manufactured by Arakyd Industries. While they had seen use since the Clone Wars, RA-7s were later produced specially for the Galactic Empire. RA-7s were almost always used as spies, and the droids could also be armed with a blaster rifle.
Created by Arakyd Industries, the RA-7 protocol droid was a third class droid that stood 1.7 meters tall. RA-7s were known to possess masculine or feminine programming. Over their service life, RA-7 units served a number of functions, including working as analyst droids, inventory droids, spy droids, or protocol droids. However, the RA-7's long history of service throughout galactic history was considered surprising, as the RA-7's design effectively failed to fulfill its purpose. Additionally, unlike most protocol droids, RA-7s had unpleasant personalities and were almost always used as spies.
The distinctive head
RA-7 protocol droids were distinguished by their insectoid heads that resembled those of the insectoid Verpine species. Their heads were equipped with broadband photoreceptors, featuring an antiglare coating. These large droid eyes were one of the more impressive parts to the RA-7 line. As a result of being able to see throughout a very large band, a RA-7 could work in near total darkness.
Another surprisingly advanced element of the droid came with its very sensitive audio sensors, which were located on the sides of an RA-7's head. A commonly overlooked element of the RA-7's head was the "sunburst" of a unit's magnetic sensor. The sensor, which allowed a unit to "see" magnetic field shifts, was between and slightly higher than the droid's photoreceptors. An RA-7's head could also be filled with surveillance technology, making them valuable to criminal organizations. One RA-7 protocol droid, 4-A7, was a prototype spy droid and had a holocam build into his eyes. He was therefore able to shoot and, because of his editing software, edit footage.
The RA-7 was equipped with a vocabulator that also contained a sounding box. Though their vocoders were made with cheap parts that made it so their speech often had a slight mechanical buzz, the RA-7 was still able to speak in a number of languages and dialects, so they were able to function as translators. The RA-7's language databank, along with comlink technology, was stored in the droid's communications module. However, this databank was a fraction of the size of those used by Cybot Galactica. Some of the languages the RA-7 could speak were Shyriiwook, Galactic Basic Standard, and Kyhhhsik. They could also understand the binary spoken by astromech droids.
The RA-7 units built during the early days of the Clone Wars and 3PO-series protocol droids shared much of their body plating. The saving factor of the RA-7 series came with how, while Cybot Galactica made only one model of 3PO unit, Arakyd Industries created many different customized looks, fitting the different needs of different clients. When they started to move away from using 3PO parts, RA-7 droids like AP-5 were left as a later generation design that included ball-and-socket shoulder joints. The simpler socket joints appeared somewhat primitive. RA-7 units like AP-5 also had a more pronounced vocabulator, which would light up when they spoke. For AP-5, the light came in a red color, though this colorization was not universal among these RA-7s. This model still included an insectoid head with large eyes.
By the year 19 BBY another version of the RA-7 had unique plating. An RA-7 unit with this plating was equipped with an interface connection port, a simple plug-in port that would let a unit directly connect to a diagnostic system or a fixed mainframe.
The RA-7 was also equipped with intersystem connection wires, servomotors on their arms, and intermotor actuating couplings at their knees. The RA-7's droid brain was a generation behind the module used in the 3PO-series protocol droid, and RA-7 droids could never replicate or understand the fine nuances of sentient behavior like a 3PO unit could. Ultimately, while they were reasonably attractive and moderately capable, RA-7s were never equal to the 3PO unit's versatility and intelligence.
Created by Arakyd Industries as a low-budget droid, being sold at twelve thousand credits per unit in the potentially lucrative protocol droid market, the RA-7 series' long service life began when it was introduced during the reign of the Galactic Republic at some point prior to the outbreak of the Clone Wars. By the droid's debut, Cybot Galactica's hold over the market for protocol units was hard to break past, so the RA-7 never managed to truly catch the eye of Cybot's core customer base. However, the RA-7 did sell more than the LOM-series protocol droid, which was produced by Industrial Automaton and considered a spectacular failure. RA-7 units from the early war were finished in 3PO plating, which often made potential customers focus on the differences between the 3PO, which was the top seller in the protocol droid market, and the cheaper alternative.
In part because the RA-7's droid brain was not as advanced as that of the 3PO-series, Cybot did not believe the RA-7 posed a threat to their profits. Nevertheless, during the Clone Wars between the Republic and Confederacy of Independent Systems, the RA-7 unit saw use by both factions, as well as third parties like the Ohnaka Gang and InterGalactic Banking Clan. During the conflict, RA-7s proved to be effective strategists and were used by the Republic as tactical assistants aboard capital ships, helping their superiors plan out their next movements. Finding the RA-7 very useful in this analyst role or as administrators, the Republic elected to use a large number of RA-7 droids. The exact number was in the thousands, with RA-7s working everywhere from the Republic capital of Coruscant to military craft like the Venator-class Star Destroyer.
A RA-7 designated 4-A7 was used as a spy droid by the Confederacy during the Clone Wars. He had been created by Separatist sympathizers in Arakyd Industries but was destroyed by Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano during the Battle of Teth. RA-7 droid 4A-2R was part of the Ohnaka Gang, becoming a valued part of its operations because of his surveillance equipment. An RA-7 designated AP-5 served as an analyst droid for the Republic aboard a Venator-class Star Destroyer during the Ryloth campaign. Though the Venator's captain was killed, the Republic managed to win the battle after the fall of the planetary capital of Lessu.
Another RA-7 droid was with an astromech droid in the lower market districts of Coruscant, though the RA-7 unit was scared off when he believed the astromech to be killed by assassin droid HELIOS-3E. Unit R-A7 was stationed at the Republic Center for Military Operations. While R-A7 was having a conversation with astromech droid MR-T3, Tano ran past both of them.
- "RA-7s are Death Star droids."
"Um… well, yes, that's what some call them, though many RA-7s find it a derogatory term. Only a small percentage of that model actually worked on the Death Star."
- ―Caluan Ematt and C-3PO
Arakyd Industries later produced RA-7s specially for the Republic's successor state, the Galactic Empire. As for RA-7 units leftover from the Republic, older model RA-7s like AP-5 were considered too old to be given sensitive work, but they were also considered too good to be reduced to scrap. Thus, AP-5 became an inventory droid for the Galactic Empire aboard cargo transport 241. Such assignments were typical of the RA-7s inherited from the Republic. Later, however, AP-5 defected to the rebellion after having his restraining bolt removed by astromech droid C1-10P of the Phoenix Cell. Under the rebellion, he was given sensitive work like creating fake credentials for undercover missions. AP-5 and other RA-7s saw use in the Alliance to Restore the Republic, which engaged in a civil war against the Empire.
Likely inspired by the effectiveness 4-A7 had shown during the Clone Wars, the Empire purchased large quantities of the RA-7 line and even specially commissioned its own RA-7 range, which the Empire made extensive use of despite keeping much of the Republic's stock. As such, Arakyd Industries was able to establish close business ties to the Imperial state. Due to their use aboard the first Death Star, some called RA-7s "Death Star droids," although many of them found it a derogatory term as only a small percentage of the model actually worked on the battle station. The droids on the Death Star were some of the RA-7s the Empire had specially commissioned. Working for the Imperial Security Bureau, the droids aboard the station were tasked with watching over the Imperial officers, but the ISB did not make a large effort to keep their espionage role a secret.
Shortly before the Death Star's destruction, an RA-7 unit armed with a blaster rifle and equipped with a utility belt was stationed at Burnium Ro's stronghold. Although he had joined the rebels, most of AP-5's colleagues continued to work for whatever government was in power. Serving under Captain Magna Tolvan, one RA-7 worked as part of the Imperial force stationed on the moon of Yavin 4 to occupy the former Rebel headquarters, only for the droid to find themself in the midst of Doctor Chelli Lona Aphra's raid on the building.
New Republic Era
- "It's the curse of the protocol droids like you and I, See-Threepio, that our tasks require an extra degree of sentience."
- ―O-MR1, to C-3PO
Around 9 ABY, an Imperial remnant led by Moff Gideon wrested control of Nevarro from the Bounty Hunters' Guild, replacing the cantina's previous bartender with an RA-7. It was destroyed when Gideon's death troopers opened fire on the cantina. Another RA-7 protocol droid appeared in Gideon's light cruiser during the rescue of Grogu.
Because they were inherited from the Empire, the RA-7 was also used by the Empire's successor state, the First Order, despite the decades that had passed. One RA-7 protocol droid that served the First Order was O-MR1, but the droid developed a friendship with C-3PO, a 3PO-series protocol droid who served the Resistance, after crashing on the Outer Rim planet of Taul. As O-MR1 noted, the two of them were older models, yet they survived the longest out of all the droids in their group. Choosing friendship over their different factions, O-MR1 sacrificed themself for C-3PO, only leaving behind a red arm, which C-3PO used to replace his own missing arm and to remember the droids who had fallen during the mission. With O-MR1's sacrifice, the Resistance was able to arrange a rescue of Admiral Ackbar. C-3PO used the arm until the conclusion of the Starkiller Base crisis.
Prior to the destruction of Starkiller Base, RA-7-D4, a RA-7 protocol droid that worked as part of C-3PO's Resistance spy droid network, reported on the interrogation of Resistance pilot Poe Dameron aboard the Resurgent-class Star Destroyer Finalizer. At the same time as the mission of Batuu, pirate Hondo Ohnaka wrote Galactic Explorer's Guide, which featured dossiers from DK-RA-43.
Ironically, while the droid line was never able to take on the 3PO's market share, the RA-7 was just as long-lived in its service throughout galactic history.
Behind the scenes
- "A lot of the other bits of the costume were See-Threepio concept work that wasn't used."
- ―Brian Muir
The RA-7 protocol droid was created for the 1977 film Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. The costume built for the film was taken directly from an "elevator scene" production painting and other pencil quick sketches Ralph McQuarrie had done of the character. Two versions of the RA-7 were seen in the film: it first appeared in the Jawa sandcrawler with a reflective Steinart finish (3B6-RA-7) and a quick repaint allowed the same costume to be used later in the Death Star with a black finish (5D6-RA-7). Its torso as it appeared in the production painting would later inspire the design of the 2-1B-series medical droid.
The RA-7's head was sculpted by Brian Muir and, with its large, insect-like eyes and bulbous cranium, it was one of his favorite designs from A New Hope. The torso of the character was almost exactly like McQuarrie's designs, though it may have been done as concept art for C-3PO's costume. It eventually had shoulder epaulets installed, with a functional joint identical to C-3PO's. The arms and legs were likewise similar to C-3PO's, though the aluminum arms lacked the elbow pistons and other detailing. The fiberglass legs were stripped of their sculpted detail lines to give this protocol droid a slightly different appearance. The costume's hands were simple gloves with metal-colored plates applied to them, to give them a mechanical look.
For the RA-7 protocol droid's appearance in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series, its animation model—whose geometry was later updated by Chris Glenn to better match its design in A New Hope—was identical to that of C-3PO, barring its head. In Star Wars Rebels animated series, its design and proportions better match early McQuarrie's sketches of the droid, particularly its rounded shoulders.
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