The R1-series integrated and improved on the developments of the P2-series prototype astromech, and was an improvement over the P2, despite its unconventional appearance. To save on research, development, and retooling costs, Industrial Automaton reused the jet black body shells from its long running Mark II reactor drone. The dense shielding of the heavy shell gave the R1 protection against intense radiation. The droid moved about via a tracked uni-pod, which was slow and often malfunctioned, causing a frequent lack of locomotion.
The center of the R1's design was the Intellex III computer brain, which contained a comprehensive catalog of 500 starship configurations. In addition, the R1 was the first Industrial Automaton astromech able to calculate complex navigational coordinates necessary to complete a single hyperspace jump. It was common for R1 units to be used in the hyperdrive sleds of CloakShape fighters.
Due to its cumbersome size, although the R1 was still an adequate improvement over the Mark II, R1s were commonly stationed aboard capital ships and large freighters.
An R1 was employed as principal controller of the Sun Runner counterfeit ship fabricated in 23 BBY by Groodo the Hutt for his Jedi-foiled attempt to destroy the orbital Fondor Shipyards. Coming face to face in the ship's control chamber with a 18-year-old lightsaber-wielding Jedi Padawan Anakin Skywalker, the R1 droid triggered a self-annihilating shutdown, antecedent to Skywalker destroying the false Sun Runner itself with a hypermatter reactor-planted proton grenade.
The droid's array of retractable tools made the droids useful technicians, but owners often complained of their obstinate personalities and unreliable method of locomotion. Industrial Automaton promised to address all these issues in their next model, the R2-series.
The recycled construction of the R1 did not give off the impression of sophisticated electronics, but Industrial Automaton did use the model to introduce Binary to the market, which became the standard for all inter-droid communications, which caused the R1 to have a lasting impact on the droid market.
- "Single Cell"—Star Wars Tales 7 (Appears in flashback(s))
- Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace
- Star Wars Adventures 1: Hunt the Sun Runner
- Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope (First appearance)
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope junior novel
- LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy (Non-canonical appearance)
- LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Non-canonical appearance)
- "Spare Parts"—Star Wars Adventure Journal 11
- (First appearance)
- The New Rebellion
- Dark Empire Sourcebook
- "The History of R-Series Astromech Droids"—Star Wars Adventure Journal 7
- The Essential Guide to Droids
- Star Wars: The Action Figure Archive
- Arms & Equipment Guide
- Star Wars: Episode I The Visual Dictionary
- The Official Star Wars Fact File 9 (MAN1, Droid Manufacturers)
- The Official Star Wars Fact File 21 (AST1-2, P2 and R1 Astromech Droids)
- The New Essential Guide to Droids
- Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary
- Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Core Rulebook
- Star Wars: Age of Rebellion Core Rulebook