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Taser maker offers electric-shock drones • The Register

Rick Smith, founder and CEO of body camera and maker of Taser Axon, thinks he has a way to reduce the risk of school kids being shot by guns.

No, it does not involve reducing access to guns, which Smith considers politically unfeasible in the United States. Nor does it involve moving to one of the many countries where school shootings rarely, if ever, happen, and – coincidentally – where there are laws that limit access to guns.

Here’s a hint – his answer involves Axon.

Smith’s proposal is to mount the sometimes deadly taser [PDF] on drones, assuming that remotely controlled electric shock drones will do this The Uvalde police did not – intervene to stop a shooter (and this is almost always men) of the killing of minors with assault rifles and the like.

Axon drone cropped document

Axon’s Taser drone concept… Click to enlarge

In a publication Published Thursday on the Axon website, Smith points to advances in drone technology and “non-lethal” energy weapons (they are sometimes lethal) and that the American public can benefit from the synergy between the two.

“Together, these two technologies can effectively combat mass shootings,” Smith speculates. “In short, non-lethal drones can be installed in schools and other places and perform the same role as sprinklers and other fire extinguishing tools for firefighters: prevent a catastrophic event, or at least mitigate its worst effects. .”

Smith is aware of the way this proposal presents itself.

“Of course, I appreciate the risks of such a proposal, and I know it sounds slightly ridiculous to some,” he continues. “That’s why we have to start with a caveat: we can’t introduce anything like non-lethal drones into schools without rigorous debate and laws that govern their use.”

Axon, however, skipped the rigorous debate phase and announcement “He officially began development of a non-lethal, remote-controlled TASER drone system as part of a long-term plan to stop mass shootings, and reaffirmed his commitment to public engagement and dialogue during the development process.”

“Today, the only viable response to a mass shooter is another person with a gun,” Rick Smith said in a statement. “In the wake of these events, we find ourselves stuck in fruitless debates. We need new and better solutions. For this reason, we have chosen to publicly engage communities and stakeholders, and develop a system of remote-controlled non-lethal drone that we believe will be a more effective, immediate, humane and ethical option to protect the innocent.”

Smith acknowledges the need for rigorous debate while dismissing the debate as “unfruitful”. While those who care to chat, Axon forges ahead.

EFF political analyst Matthew Guariglia published answer to Axon’s proposal. He opposes the idea not to be ridiculous but to promote the proliferation of armed drones.

“For many reasons, it’s a dangerous idea,” Guariglia said. “Armed drones would slip into a more day-to-day policing mission. We must oppose a process of standardizing the weaponization of drones and robots.”

This, according to Guariglia, leads to mission drift, as technologies intended for casual use by law enforcement are applied to more and more situations. It highlights how cell tower simulators (“Stingrays”), which were designed for use on foreign battlefields, are now being used for minor violations of the law, and how Amazon doorbell cameras Ring have expanded police access to surveillance video.

Armed drones would sneak into the mission of daily policing. We must oppose a process of standardization of the armament of drones and robots

In A declaration released on Thursday, Axon AI’s ethics advisory board said the idea of ​​a taser-equipped drone was presented to the board a year ago, considered and ultimately rejected.

“Axon’s decision to publicly announce that it is pursuing the development of Taser-equipped drones and robots that will be integrated into schools and operated by someone other than the police, gives us considerable pause,” said the advisory board. “Reasonable minds may differ on the merits of taser-equipped police-controlled drones – our own counsel internally disagree – but we are unanimously concerned about the process Axon has used regarding this drone idea. in the classrooms.”

Smith, however, dismissed the concerns of Axon’s AI Ethics Advisory Board – on which EFF’s Director of Oversight Litigation, Jennifer Lynch sits – as easily as he dismissed the need for a debate.

He replied on Twitter to the board’s reprimands calling for a broader discussion – perhaps because the internal board discussion didn’t yield the outcome he wanted.

“I understand and agree with the board’s concerns; there are many questions we will need to answer to ensure these systems are designed for maximum security and with fairness in mind,” he said. -he declares. “That’s the exact reason I decided to go public: to broaden the discussion with many stakeholders.”

And so he engaged with the Internet community. Smith chaired a Friday Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) and answered questions from skeptics while trying to gain support for his cause.

Here is a sample:

Smith continued to answer more questions, undeterred by those who were unconvinced by his arguments.

Axon Companies Stock was down about 1.4% on Friday. ®