Last week, representatives from Taser International met with police officials to discuss the concept of designing autonomous drones armed with stun-guns for U.S. police departments. The company not only sells their popular stun-gun to police departments all over the world, but have now become the largest provider of body-worn cameras for American police.
"One can certainly imagine high-risk scenarios such as terrorist barricades where such a capability could allow public safety officers to more rapidly incapacitate a threat and save many lives," Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle explained. Tuttle said that the Taser drone concept was inspired by the Dallas Police Department's use of a bomb-disposal robot to remotely kill a sniper in July.
"If an officer goes into a room and there's an armed adversary, he has no choice except to shoot," said Sean Bielat, CEO of Endeavor Robotics, a company that designs robots for military use. "By adding time and space between the operator, you've introduced an element that can potentially reduce casualties."
One of the most worrying concepts about the proposed drones is that Tuttle described them as “autonomous,” implying that it could be a self-driving device, potentially even able to choose its own targets, instead of being remotely-controlled by humans. Pete Simpson of the Portland Police Department rightly pointed out that convincing the general public “to accept an unmanned vehicle that’s got some sort of weapon on it might be a hurdle to overcome.”
A Taser-armed drone has actually already been tested, when software development firm Chaotic Moon filmed a brave intern getting Tased by a drone as a publicity stunt at South by Southwest in 2014. Taser has not announced concrete plans to bring these drones to market, but North Dakota has already paved the way for their use. This summer, the state passed a law allowing police to equip drones with “less-than-lethal” weapons, including Tasers.