The Recon Scout: "Know before you go"

     Officers receive a call of shots fired, barricaded subject, unknown weapons, unknown bystanders/ hostages, and race to the scene. When they arrive, they find the department already has a guy working on the inside. This officer took little regard...


     Officers receive a call of shots fired, barricaded subject, unknown weapons, unknown bystanders/ hostages, and race to the scene. When they arrive, they find the department already has a guy working on the inside. This officer took little regard for his own well-being and dropped through an opening in a window.

     Responding officers learn he has just maneuvered into the home's living room. An entry team member reports "a white male with what appears to be a 9mm handgun is in the east bedroom." He states the inside man has positioned himself under a bed near the suspect.

     As responding officers anxiously await this officer's return, supervisors question whether they should promote him or place him on immediate psychological review. On the other hand, sending in just one officer quite possibly saved the lives of the whole team.

     This scenario is fictitious. There really isn't an officer inside the building, just a small robotic device that gathers intelligence information for officers a safe distance away.

     The device is the Recon Scout, a miniature mobile robot that provides real-time video reconnaissance of hostile or dangerous environments, from ReconRobotics Inc. It saves lives by gathering mission-critical information prior to sending personnel into treacherous, unpredictable and unsafe environments. Constructed of aircraft aluminum and titanium, the energy drink can-sized device can be thrown through a window, tossed over a wall or dropped from a low-flying unmanned aerial vehicle. Once deployed, its movement is controlled from a distance using a handheld operator control unit (OCU), which immediately begins receiving live video on a 3.5-inch screen.

Love at first sight

     I was first introduced to the Recon Scout in June 2007 at Enforcement Expo in Ohio. David Gustafson, ReconRobotics director of commercial sales, and his associate, Aimee Barmore, were conducting "live" demonstrations of the mobile robot at the show.

     Some of the device's features that caught my attention were its small size (it is 7.5 inches long, 1.5 inches in diameter, and weighs just 1.2 pounds) and rugged features (it offers an extreme level of throw and drop shock resistance). Knowing how hard cops can be on their equipment, I initially walked past the booth, believing that even if it did stand up to the test, my department could not afford it.

     As I watched from an adjacent booth, I observed the folks from ReconRobotics allowing individuals to kick and hurl the device. After observing this for several minutes, curiosity got the better of me and I couldn't make my way to the booth fast enough.

     As with most officers I know, I am somewhat skeptical when it comes to things like Las Vegas magic acts, index cards stating I won a million dollars, spam e-mail connecting me with $100,000,000 in an Aruban bank account and new police technologies guaranteed to save lives. Initially I thought the demonstration unit, being tossed around like little sister's rag doll, was probably a beefed up, genetically enhanced version of the actual retail unit.

     Gustafson and Barmore noted the Recon Scout was designed to survive a vertical throw of up to 120 feet and a vertical drop of up to 30 feet. With this type of engineering, the Scout can be thrown through a window or down several flights of stairs and be ready to move and transmit video at a moment's notice. Furthermore, this little fellow can be tossed over a trailer court fence, chucked into brick walls or out of a car window to secure a location and transmit video of its surroundings.

     The robot is small enough to be carried in a pocket or attached to a vest, and its narrow diameter makes it easy to carry or throw. The device has a matte black finish that makes it almost stealth like. It also moves in a clandestine fashion at a maximum decibel level of just 20 decibels.

A reconnaissance test
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