The company’s decision to produce “smart” stun drones has forced its entire ethics board to resign.

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The head of Axon, the main developer of tasers, proposed arming “smart” drones so that they could neutralize attackers on schools. The Ethics Council at this company resigned almost in its entirety.

Airborne non-lethal

Axon has proposed using drones equipped with artificial intelligence – and armed with tasers (remote stun guns) – to deal with attacks on schools. However, this proposal led to the fact that most of the members of the artificial intelligence ethics board at the company resigned.

Interestingly, the idea of ​​intelligent drones armed with stun guns is fully consistent with the plot of a dystopian story by an American science fiction writer. Roberta Sheckley (Robert Sheckley) “Guardian Bird”. In it, to fight crime, drones were created and launched that hit potential killers with an electric charge.

Axon, formerly known as TASER International, is the world’s premier developer of remote stun guns, also known as tasers. They are predominantly used by police officers in the US and Canada as non-lethal weapons. Civilian models are also produced.

Estimated appearance of an Axon drone equipped with tasers

In addition, Axon manufactures police and military body cameras and accessories, and develops and maintains Evidence.com, an online crime investigation evidence platform.

In June 2022, Axon leadership proposed using autonomous drones to protect educational institutions from armed attacks in response to an incident at Robb Elementary School in Texas, where an 18-year-old shooter killed 21 people on May 24, 2022. Most of the victims were children aged 9-11. The attacker was also killed.

This once again exacerbated the debate about a ban on the free sale of weapons in the United States. Meanwhile, in most cases, attacks on schools are accompanied by numerous victims precisely in those cases when the shooters do not meet resistance.

There have been more than 20 school shooting incidents in the US since early January 2022, but the Robb Elementary School attack was the deadliest.

Rapid Response Drone

Axon proposed the use of drones that could receive real-time information about possible threats – Fusus, the developer of an online platform that is able to determine dangerous situations caught on security cameras, was ready to provide it in real time.

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Fusus CEO stated Chris Lindenau (Chris Lindenau), “Fusus allows any CCTV camera to be instantly streamed to emergency services, with location, regardless of which camera is being used. A network of cameras, human and AI monitoring, as well as a system of “panic buttons” and other means of local communication will allow detecting and identifying a threat before the first shots are fired, significantly reduce response time and help with quick mastery of the situation.”

In other words, it is assumed that having received an alarm signal, the drone flies to the scene of the incident and neutralizes a potential attacker with a taser.

The Axon Ethics Council, however, did not arouse any enthusiasm for this proposal. A few weeks earlier, a majority of council members voted against the implementation of a project with drones armed with tasers. The council said in a statement that the chance of such drones being abused is too great in areas populated predominantly by ethnic minorities, and not only in them. In addition, council members believe that such drones will not solve the problems with armed attacks, but will only “distract society from real solutions to a tragic problem.”

However, the head of Axon Rick Smith (Rick Smith) exercised authority and, against the will of the ethics board, announced that the project would go ahead. According to him, something urgently needs to be done against the backdrop of school shootings, a problem that has become epidemic, and the drone option seems to him the most workable.

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As a result of the incident, 9 out of 12 members of the artificial intelligence ethics board announced that they were leaving their posts.

“The use of autonomous drones in such a context is really very dangerous,” he said. Dmitry Gvozdev, General Director of the company “Information Technologies of the Future”. – AI technologies are far from maturity, no one can guarantee the absence of false positives, and people’s lives are at stake. The use of hand-held drones is also a rather dubious option, fraught with abuses of the worst order. It is not surprising that the ethics council took this idea with hostility – it is too early to talk about the use of armed, albeit non-lethal weapons, drones in a civilian environment. On the other hand, the general trend towards the use of drones as a force means of influence will develop both in the military and in the civilian spheres. The only question is how mature the technologies are and how adequate control over the use of such tools will be.


Roman Georgiev



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