Taser and surveillance vendor Axon has proposed what it claims to be the solution to the epidemic of school shootings in the United States: a remote-controlled flying drone armed with a taser. For many many reasons, this is a dangerous idea. Armed drones would mission-creep their way into more every-day policing. We must oppose a process of normalizing the arming of drones and robots.
EFF has stated strongly before that drones and robots, whether they be autonomous or remote-controlled, should not be armed–either with lethal or “less-lethal” weapons. And we’re far from the only group to do so.
Police currently deploy many different kinds of moving and task-performing technologies. These include flying drones, remote control bomb-defusing robots, and autonomous patrol robots. While these different devices serve different functions and operate differently, none of them—absolutely none—should be armed with any kind of weapon.
Mission creep is very real. Time and time again, technologies given to police to use only in the most extreme circumstances make their way onto streets during protests or to respond to petty crime. For example, cell site simulators (often called “Stingrays”) were developed for use in foreign battlefields, brought home in the name of fighting “terrorism,” then used by law enforcement to catch immigrants and a man who stole $57 worth of food. Likewise, police have targeted BLM protesters with face surveillance and Amazon Ring doorbell cameras.
Police will be more likely to use this kind of force if the entire process feels like a video game—if they can send tens of thousands of volts through a person’s body with the push of a button far removed from that person. And the person at risk of being tased might not hear the drone’s commands or may be confused by the presence of a floating robot.