Tony Dyson, the robotics expert who brought R2-D2 to life in the original Star Wars films, has died at his home in Malta.
Dyson, 68, was discovered at his home on the island of Gozo by authorities after friends noticed his absence, and neighbours who noted his front door was open called police.
The British robotics technician, SFX supervisor, designer and professor had lived in Malta for decades. No foul play is suspected and an autopsy will be held to determine the cause of death, a police spokesman told local media.
Dyson, best known for constructing R2-D2 for the original Star Wars movies by filmmaker George Lucas, called his work on the landmark series "one of the most exciting periods of my life."
The heroic droid was initially designed by conceptual designer Ralph McQuarrie and special effects artist John Stears, with production designer Roger Christian creating the first mock-up of the famed robot out of marine wood and metal.
Dyson was the one who constructed the multiple physical models used in the films — from the ones actually worn by actor Kenny Baker to several "throwaway" units — like the one seen flying through the air after being "spat out" by a swamp-dwelling beast in The Empire Strikes Back.
His droid would eventually be enshrined in the Smithsonian and inducted into Carnegie Mellon University's Robot Hall of Fame. An updated R2-D2 appeared at last Sunday's Academy Awards.
The Emmy-nominated Dyson's other film credits include Superman 2, Dragon Slayer, Altered States, Saturn 3 and the 007 film Moonraker, for which Dyson said he designed and built dozens of "model spacemen complete with backpacks, laser guns and spacesuits."
He also built robots for tech firms such as Toshiba, Philips and Sony, including a famed model voiced by John Cleese in a TV ad.
More recently, Dyson delved into the world of search-and-rescue drones and was travelling the the world attending robotics conferences, fan conventions, schools and other venues as a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) motivational speaker.