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Duluth, Minn., Police Buy SWAT Robot for ‘High-Risk Situations’

The purchase, approved by the Duluth City Council, will pay for a Mini-Caliber SWAT robot capable of breaking windows and climbing stairs. It is not armed or otherwise weaponized but can make smoke.

Duluth, Minnesota's popular Canal Park area and bridge are seen from the air.
(TNS) — Local law enforcement officials will soon have a new tool for responding to tense and potentially dangerous situations.

Meet the Mini-Caliber SWAT robot.

The Duluth City Council unanimously agreed Monday to authorize the purchase of this new piece of technology for $74,328.

Police Chief Mike Ceynowa described the robot as "a de-escalation tool to keep our officers out of harm's way."

The machine's dexterous robotic arm will give the department new capabilities, according to Ceynowa. "It will allow us to open doors as we fly drones through buildings," he said.

It also can be used to break out a window, enabling police to deliver a throw-phone to facilitate negotiations without the risk of a face-to-face confrontation in the event of a standoff situation.

The remote-controlled robot can readily climb stairs and is equipped with cameras that can provide officers with a better grasp of a situation before entering a scene in person. The device also allows for two-way communication.

The robot is not armed or weaponized but can carry disruption devices, and it includes smoke-making capacity, as delivered with its proprietary Mini Draco Thump nail.

Ceynowa said this technology is preferable to disruptive munitions sometimes used in the past, which can pose a fire hazard and lead to the longer displacement of neighboring residents well after police have resolved an incident in a multi-tenant setting. He explained that fans can be used to quickly and effectively clear a response scene with far less difficulty.

Ceynowa's description of the robot allayed some of the concerns 2nd District Duluth City Councilor Mike Mayou initially had about the technology.

"My big worry would have been if we were taking the human factor out of the picture," he said. "For instance, I have moral concerns over armed drones, and dehumanizing violence."

"This technology just makes it possible to get into difficult situations and try to de-escalate them," Mayou said.

Trained police dogs have also been used to keep officers out of harm's way in the past, but sometimes with tragic consequences for the department's K-9 partners.

"This is a good extra tool," Mayou said. "And we're taking more living things out of the equation."

"I think it's a testament to how far the technology has come," he said.

The robot weighs in at 64 pounds and has a 15-pound lift capacity. Its vertical reach is 66 inches, and its maximum horizontal reach is 52 inches. It can be controlled by way of a joystick and portable monitor.

The robot the police department has ordered will also come equipped with a mini-claw that can be used to cut materials, deflate tires and hold extension devices.

In the resolution sent to the Duluth City Council on Monday, city staff made the case for the new robot.

"This equipment is essential in providing response to high-risk, rapidly evolving situations and incidents involving community members experiencing mental health crises," the resolution read.

The resolution noted that such equipment has been embraced as "best practice" technology for tactical response and crisis negotiations. Police also observed that they currently lack comparable resources.

The robot is made by Icor Technology Inc., based in Ottawa, Ontario.

©2024 the Duluth News Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.