Axon is a company formerly known as Taser and manufactures stun guns and body cameras for police departments. In response to the series of mass shootings, they announced Thursday plans to build a stun-gun-equipped drone and artificial intelligence-powered surveillance systems for schools.
"Now is the time to make this technology a reality," said Axon chief executive and founder Rick Smith, "and to begin a robust public discussion around how to ethically introduce nonlethal drones into schools."
Smith said the drones and surveillance system are "part of a long-term plan to stop mass shootings" and claimed it could "remotely deploy non-lethal drones capable of incapacitating an active shooter in less than 60 seconds," he said, adding:
"In the aftermath of these events, we get stuck in fruitless debates. We need new and better solutions. For this reason, we have elected to publicly engage communities and stakeholders, and develop a remotely operated, non-lethal drone system that we believe will be a more effective, immediate, humane, and ethical option to protect innocent people."
But on the same day of the announcement (Thursday), Axon's ethics advisory board warned against the technology.
"With Axon's acquiescence, the Ethics Board decided to consider only a limited pilot of a Taser-equipped drone, to be used only by the police … Having done this work, and deliberated at length, a majority of the ethics board last month ultimately voted against Axon moving forward, even on those limited terms.
"Axon's decision to announce publicly that it is proceeding with developing Taser-equipped drones and robots to be embedded in schools, and operated by someone other than police, gives us considerable pause.
"Now, Axon has announced it would not limit the technology to policing agencies, but would make it more widely available. And the surveillance aspect of this proposal is wholly new to us. Reasonable minds can differ on the merits of police-controlled Taser-equipped drones – our own board disagreed internally – but we unanimously are concerned with the process Axon has employed regarding this idea of drones in school classrooms," the board tweeted.
In response to today's announcement... We have included a statement from the Axon AI Ethics Advisory Board. pic.twitter.com/7FDgmImhnU— Axon (@axon_us) June 2, 2022
Taser-equipped drones are the latest example of non-lethal technology that schools could add. There will be a lot of public discussion about these drones. Even if they don't make it into the classrooms, these drones could be deployed by police departments in the not too distant future. Maybe conservative demonstrators have a new threat in the sky while picketing for freedom: stun-gun drones.