Jun 6, 2022

Axon halts plans to make a drone equipped with a Taser

Posted by in categories: drones, education, ethics, robotics/AI

Axon has paused work on a project to build drones equipped with its Tasers. A majority of its artificial intelligence ethics board quit after the plan was announced last week.

Nine of the 12 members said in a resignation letter that, just a few weeks ago, the board voted 8–4 to recommend that Axon shouldn’t move forward with a pilot study for a Taser-equipped drone concept. “In that limited conception, the Taser-equipped drone was to be used only in situations in which it might avoid a police officer using a firearm, thereby potentially saving a life,” the nine board members wrote. They noted Axon might decline to follow that recommendation and were working on a report regarding measures the company should have in place were it to move forward.

The nine individuals said they were blindsided by an announcement from the company last Thursday — nine days after 19 elementary school students and two teachers were killed in a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas — about starting development of such a drone. It had an aim of “incapacitating an active shooter in less than 60 seconds.” Axon said it “asked the board to re-engage and consider issuing further guidance and feedback on this capability.”

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