Recon robot goes to prison

Recon scout robot to assist guards in California prisons.

Eric Franklin Former Editorial Director
Eric Franklin led the CNET Tech team as Editorial Director. A 20-plus-year industry veteran, Eric began his tech journey testing computers in the CNET Labs. When not at work he can usually be found at the gym, chauffeuring his kids around town, or absorbing every motivational book he can get his hands on.
Expertise Graphics and display technology Credentials
  • Once wrote 50 articles in one month.
Eric Franklin
2 min read

Recon Robotics

From what I hear (from documentaries, reality TV shows), prison ain't nothin' nice. I don't mean just for the prisoners, but for the guards as well. Not a job I envy in the least, but one that obviously is necessary. Sometimes a person just decides to hurt himself or another and prison guards need tools to deal with this. Assault weapons are necessary in some situations, but sometimes knowing a lot about what you're getting into can be useful.

Popular Mechanics posted a story about the California Department of Corrections' decision to test a new recon robot from Minneapolis-based ReconRobotics.

The Recon scout is a small "grenade size" video-recording robot designed for reconnaissance in prisons. The bot is already in use in other law enforcement agencies and by the military in Iraq.

The bot can be tossed into hostile areas and then controlled remotely up to 100 feet away with the handheld controller and integrated viewing screen. ReconRobotics also sells a command monitoring kit, which consists of an additional antenna and software that allows the footage to be recorded on a laptop and then reviewed later. The bot is designed to survive a 30-foot fall onto concrete.

The usage scenario that Popular Mechanics posted is unlikely but supposedly does happen from time to time. "A prisoner barricades himself in a room, disables the cameras, and says he's taken hostages. Or maybe he's holding himself hostage, threatening suicide. Instead of charging in blind, a response team can drive or toss the Recon Scout past the barricade. Even if the drone is spotted, and immediately stomped to death, a quick peek could reveal what kinds of weapons are present, and what condition the hostages are in."

While stomping a small grenade-looking robot to death is not something I'd ever recommend, it might be a reasonable reaction given the above circumstance.