Minnesota police officer creates low-cost tactical robot for police across the US

As a SWAT team member for the Burnsville Police Department, detective Shawn Mahaney has access to a tactical robot for dangerous situations, but he wants to make sure patrol officers can use the very same tools.

"It's basically similar to a drone. It's those eyes up front," said Mahaney.

Mahaney, the founder of Tactical R/C, has developed his own remote visualization vehicle called the Vantage that officers can send into homes or buildings before having to physically enter the area and have a possible confrontation.

The four-wheeled robot can carry a body camera or cell phone that streams back live video to an officer who operates it with a remote control from a safe distance.

"It basically allows you to have that remote view of a place that may not be safe enough to enter ourselves," Mahaney said.

But instead of costing upwards of $10,000 like current tactical robots, Mahaney says the Vantage only costs about $2,500, which would make it easier for police departments to buy several to spread out to their patrol cars instead of just being reserved for S.W.A.T. teams to use for hostage situations and bomb threats.

"I think it's a great way to put officers in a position to make smart safe decisions," said Burnsville police officer Sam Lehmann, who has tested the Vantage in several real-life scenarios.

Mahaney says in some situations, the Vantage could also be used to bring someone suffering a mental health crisis face to face with a social worker without putting them in harm's way.

So far, Mahaney's company has sold nearly a dozen Vantages to police departments around the country. 

He believes their use will ultimately save lives on both sides of the badge.

"The need is there. It is going to be a very useful tool," Mahaney said.