Axon suspends plans for Taser-equipped drone to combat mass shootings as ethics advisers resign – GeekWire

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A conceptual rendering of a Taser drone by Axon. (Image of Axon)

Axonthe company that develops Tasers, body cameras and other law enforcement technology, is suspending work on a proposed development of a Taser-equipped drone it says could be used to combat shootings massive.

The decision to suspend the effort comes after intense rejection of the idea, including the resignation of nine members of Axon’s ethics advisory board.

The concept of early stage was first introduced Last Thursday, in a blog post by Axon Founder and CEO Rick Smith, who said better solutions were needed to protect schools, teachers and students, “including those leveraging technology” . The announcement came just over a week after a gunman killed 21 people at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Smith said non-lethal drones can be installed in schools and other locations and “perform the same role as sprinklers and other fire suppression tools for firefighters: prevent a catastrophic event, or at least mitigate its worst effects”.

Based in Scottsdale, Arizona, Axon maintains a significant engineering presence in Seattle. The company says its mission is to help defuse police use of force by providing transparency, technology and tools that can replace lethal weapons.

Axon tweeted a statement from Axon AI’s Ethics Advisory Board (below) on Thursday in which the board said the drone idea had come to its attention over a year ago and that a majority of the council had voted against moving forward last month. . The board said Axon’s decision to continue development “gives us considerable pause” and announcing it publicly was “deeply regrettable”.

On Sunday, Smith wrote in a new blog post that the company’s desire to find a solution to the mass shootings in the United States led it to act quickly to share its ideas.

“This has led to considerable public debate that has given us a better understanding of the complex and important considerations related to this issue,” he wrote.

“It is unfortunate that some members of Axon’s Ethics Advisory Board chose to opt out of engaging directly on these issues before we heard or had the opportunity to answer their technical questions,” Smith added. .

The nine members who resigned issued a public statement Monday in which they said they did not expect the company’s announcement on Thursday and that the use case for the drone in schools was not what they envisioned for a possible pilot study .

“We all feel the desperate need to do something about our epidemic of mass shootings,” the members said. “But Axon’s proposal to elevate a technical and police response when far less harmful alternatives exist, is not the solution.”

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