Axon, a Taser developer, said this week that it is developing drones equipped with electric stunning weapons. These could be used in schools to "help prevent the next Uvalde or Sandy Hook" or Columbine. However, the company's technology advisors dismissed the idea as dangerous fantasy.
The company that sells Tasers as well as police body cameras was publicly traded and floated the idea for a new product to be used in police drones last year to its artificial Intelligence Ethics Board, a group made up of respected experts in technology, privacy, and policing.
Some expressed reservations about using drones in heavily-policed areas of color. They were surprised to hear Axon announce on Thursday that it plans to send Taser-equipped drones into classrooms in order to stop mass shootings and immobilize an intruder gunman.
Rick Smith, Axon's founder and CEO, spoke to The Associated Press. He said that he felt compelled by the tragedy of the shooting at Uvalde Elementary School in Texas. Smith also expressed disappointment in the police response, which didn't respond for over an hour.
He stressed that no product was launched yet and that any possible launch would take place in the future. He felt the idea needed to be shared because of the ongoing public discussion about how schools and police can improve safety.
He said, "This idea should be in the public's consciousness while we are open to it"
The news caused Axon's stock to rise. However, members of the ethics committee were angered by the news and some are likely to resign.
Barry Friedman, a New York University professor of law who is a member of the Axon AI ethics board, said that "this particular idea" was "crappot". Closed doors are not an option for drones. The universe's physical properties still hold. The idea of a drone in every classroom in America is not going to work unless there are some other physical properties that hold.
Friedman stated that it was a "dangerous, fantastical idea" and went beyond the suggestion for a Taser-equipped drone police officer that board members aEUR", some of whom were former or current police officers aEUR", had been discussing in recent months.
Friedman spoke out about the announcement of the company, saying that Friedman had begged them not to. It was shameful and unnecessary.
The Associated Press spoke to board members that were shocked by the school drone proposal aEUR", which they received notice of just earlier this week aEUR", and put together a collective statement of concern that called Axon's decision "deeply regrettable." Shortly after its Thursday announcement, the company tweeted the board's disapproval.
Ryan Calo, an ethics board member and a University of Washington law professor, said, "I wouldn’t be surprised if resignations" "I believe that everyone on the board must make a decision about whether or not they want to remain involved."
Friedman and Calo described this week's process in sharp contrast to the friendly relationship Axon executives had with them in recent years regarding controversial topics like face recognition aEUR", which Axon decided not to use in its body cameras, aEUR", and automated license plate readers.
Friedman stated that sometimes the company follows our advice, and other times it doesn't. It is important that the company follows through on our advice after careful discussion and coordination. This was an example of how to throw that out the window.
Smith stated that the company is still at the early stages of product development. He said that the ethics board would continue to consult with school officials and law enforcement officials. Smith acknowledged that the company could decide that the idea isn’t feasible later and drop it.
He disagreed with the notion that he had ignored concerns from the ethics committee, which is supposed to give guidance and share feedback. Smith is still the chief executive of the company.
"I have not ignored their words." Smith stated that people can debate and disagree. "I believe there is one thing that the entire world can see: Our board does not have a whitewash.
He said, "I hope that they don't quit." "I hope they feel proud that this is a public debate."
Friday's "Ask Me Anything” chat on Reddit saw Smith admit that "drones at schools can seem crazy" and then go on to answer specific questions. He said they could fly through school vents and climb on walls and ceilings. A gunman could try to shoot them down, but it could distract from his main goal of killing people.
Smith stated, "We do this because we care." Smith said that although we are a business, we must ultimately find a financial model that works. However, he explained that our success is due to our mission and solving problems we care about.
Smith stated to a Reddit user, "absolutely NOT" that Axon was trying to capitalize upon recent tragedies in order to attract investors. Smith acknowledged the disagreements of the advisory board, but said that the mass shooting at Uvalde in Texas and misguided plans to arm teachers with guns aEUR", compelled him into going public with his drone idea to reach a "far wider array of voices."