Made In the Midwest - Riverstar Inc. Throwbot

Posted at: 05/08/2013 9:20 AM
Updated at: 05/08/2013 10:54 AM
By: Brittany Lewis

(ABC 6 News) - Whether it be police, a swat team or soldiers. When they're called into a dangerous situation, it's always good to have an extra set of eyes. In this case, the eyes belong to a robot. ABC 6 News reporter Brittany Lewis takes us to Winona to show us a potentially life-saving device, made right here in the Midwest.

When the Rochester Emergency Response unit is called in...

"We're gonna try a variety of different tactics to try and resolve and our goal is to end those situations peacefully. it's also to keep the community safe as well as our officers," says Captain John Sherwin of the Rochester Police Department.

One of the tactics they've been using for close to four years is the Recon Scout Throwbot. a robot with a camera attached that allows the user to see what is going on wherever the robot is deployed. Essentially, providing eyes into the unknown.

"The most difficult thing in a police situation, a tactical situation is the unknown and a lot of times, when you have a tool like the robot. it eliminates the unknown," says Captain Sherwin.

The emergency response unit has used the robot numerous times including a day long stand-off in December 2011, when a lake city police officer was shot and killed. More recently, they used it at a stand-off that shut down part of north Broadway for nearly five hours.

"To have a tool like a robot that you can throw into a residence and deploy without putting your people in harm's way… it's a great resource," says Captain Sherwin.

It's a resource that's made just an hour away.  

"Right here in Winona, Minnesota," says Christin Braun.

Working with Recon Robotics, Riverstar Inc. in Winona gets the robots from Riverbend Electronics in Rushford, puts the final touches on them, tests them, packages them, and sends them off. 4,000 have been distributed worldwide. Their list of clients includes the military.
"It's a life-saving tool. it helps in every way possible," says Braun.

Braun is both an employee of Riverstar and a mom to a member of the air force. Her son was deployed in Afghanistan when he used a throwbot.

"One day the troops were out on a mission and they did see what appeared to be something suspicious ahead so they took the throwbot and ran ahead and found a trip wire and they were able to detonate an I.E.D. outside the base which could potentially save these troops life," she says.

The Throwbots weigh just a pound, but don't let that light weight fool you. They're easy to operate and durable. The robot is engineered to work from up to 300 feet from the operator and can sustain falls from up to 30 feet. They're also quiet and have the capability to provide eyes to the operator in complete darkness. a guide to the unknown.  

"It paints a picture of whatever we're gonna face before we in fact enter a residence," says Braun.

Providing comfort for mom and making a proud employee.

"I cried. I cried unbelievably. I still today kinda choke up about it because ya know it's my son. But thank God we have Recon and other companies that are willing to build products to save our young troops lives," says Braun.

The robots are not cheap. They can cost up to $14,000.