Taser-armed drones ‘a crazy idea’
Tech Updates

Taser-armed drones ‘a crazy idea’

Taser developer Axon says it is building drones armed with stun devices that can fly into schools and help prevent mass shootings — an idea quickly panned as a dangerous fantasy by the company’s technology advisers.

The publicly traded company, which sells tasers and police cameras, last year brought the idea of ​​a new police drone product to its Artificial Intelligence Ethics Council, a group of respected experts in technology, policing, and privacy.

Taser-armed drones 'a crazy idea'

Some of them expressed reservations about weaponizing drones in overcrowded communities of color. But they weren’t expecting the latest announcement from Axon that it wants to send those Taser-equipped drones into classrooms to prevent mass shootings by immobilizing an intruding gunman.

Axon founder and CEO Rick Smith told the Associated Press that he felt compelled to make the idea public after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, saying he was “catastrophically disappointed” by the police’s response. Went in to kill the killer. Suspicious for over an hour.

But he stressed on Friday that no product had been launched yet and that a possible launch would be in the long run. The idea, he said, needed to be shared now because of the public conversation about effective ways for police to confront attackers safely and how schools can increase security.

Axon’s stock price rose with the news. But the announcement angered members of the ethics council, some of whom are now likely to quit in protest.

“This particular idea is insane,” said Barry Friedman, a law professor at New York University who serves on the Axon AI Ethics Board. “Drones can’t fly through closed doors. The physical properties of the universe still hold true. So unless you have a drone in every classroom in America, which seems insane, the idea isn’t to work.”

“We begged the company not to do it,” Friedman said of its announcement. “It was unnecessary and embarrassing.”

Board members unanimously expressed concern, calling Axon’s decision “deeply regrettable.”

Friedman says Axon has a respectful relationship with the board on controversial topics such as facial recognition — which Axon decided not to use in its body cameras — and automated license plate readers.

Smith said the company is still in the very early stages of product development and will continue to consult with the ethics board, law enforcement, community leaders, and school officials. He acknowledged that the company might later determine that the idea is not feasible and drop it.

Smith told a Reddit user that Axon was “definitely not” trying to capitalize on recent tragedies to attract investors. He said the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas — and what he described as misguided proposals to arm teachers with guns — forced him to make the drone idea public to evoke a “much wider range of voices.”