Drones armed with stun guns to protect schools dropped by Taser after advisers resign in protest | Science & Tech News


The company behind Taser weapons has dropped its plans to provide drones with stun guns to schools following the Uvalde shooting, after several advisers resigned in protest.

Earlier this month Axon Enterprise’s chief executive Rick Smith published a blog post titled “how non-lethal armed drones can help address school shootings” in which he argued the devices “could help prevent the next Uvalde, Sandy Hook, or Columbine”.

The idea of a drone that first responders could use to remotely fire at a target 12m (40ft) away was announced in the wake of the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 primary school children and two teachers were killed.

In response, on Monday, nine of the 12 members of the company’s ethics advisory board resigned over concerns about the plan, as was first reported by Reuters.

The board members said they quit over concerns that the drones would harm over-policed communities and in protest that Axon announced its plans without consulting them.

“In light of feedback, we are pausing work on this project and refocusing to further engage with key constituencies to fully explore the best path forward,” Mr Smith said in a statement.

Schools would pay $1,000 a year for the system, suggested Axon's CEO
Schools would pay $1,000 a year for the system, suggested Axon’s CEO

Mr Smith had previously written a graphic novel which depicted a drone with a Taser weapon stopping a school shooter at a daycare centre.

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According to Reuters, Axon first approached its ethics board more than a year ago about the drone idea and the panel voted eight to four against piloting the technology for police.

Despite this, Axon made a public announcement about the technology “as it said it wanted to get past ‘fruitless debates’ on guns after the Uvalde shooting”, reported Reuters.

In an interview one board member warned that the drones “could exacerbate racial injustice, undermine privacy through surveillance and become more lethal if other weapons were added”, it added.

“What we have right now is just dangerous and irresponsible,” said Mr Wael Abd-Almageed, an engineering research associate professor at University of Southern California.

The idea of a drone with a stun gun is “distracting society from real solutions to a tragic problem”, the resigning board members said in a statement.

Axon’s chief executive suggested that the drones would be docked in hallways and could move into rooms through special vents – he said the system would cost a school $1,000 (£800) annually.


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