Jul 29, 2014

Edina Robotics Firm Lays Off Most of Company After Defense Budget Cuts

ReconRobotics, an Edina firm founded in 2006, lay off about two-thirds of its 60 employees.

Edina Robotics Firm Lays Off Most of Company After Defense Budget Cuts
ReconRobotics, an Edina company known for its high-tech, throwable surveillance gadget, lay off about two-thirds of its 60 employees and contractors after the U.S. Army decided against spending $13 million to buy 1,000 of its Recon Scout Throwbots.

Alan Bignall, an Englishman who founded the company in 2006, told the Star Tribune that revenue had dropped off from a peak of $22 million in 2012, in part due to crippled defense spending during the sequester and in part due to the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

“We were on a roaring success for six years, and then it came to a halt, and I’m reacting to the market,” Bignall  told the paper. “We are under 20 employees. Our biggest customer was the U.S. government.’’

He said the company would introduce two new products this spring and that he hoped to re-hire some of the laid off employees.

The Recon Scout Throwbot, the company's flagship gadget, is about the size and configuration of a five-pound dumbbell—but weighing only 1.2 poiunds—it is manually “thrown” into an area where law enforcement or military personnel suspect are wary to enter.

The device is operated by a remote hand-held device that has a joystick for controlling direction and speed as well as a screen, which shows what the Throwbot is seeing at all times.

The company's founder, Alan Bignall,  told Patch in 2011 that when he stumbled across a group of U of M engineering students working on the robot, he knew it was "the perfect product."

“Technically, it is very complicated, yet is simple to use," he said. “We like to say it is simplicity beyond complexity and that it takes the human user out of much of the fight and danger.”

Retailing for $13,000, the Throwbot is in operation by more than 1,500 military units and law enforcement agencies across the world.

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