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Axon Scraps Its Plans For A Taser Drone

Axon, the company best known for developing the taser, said on Monday it was suspending plans to develop a taser-equipped drone after much of its ethics board resigned over the controversial project.

Rick Smith, the founder and CEO of Axon, announced this.  the company’s statement last week – which drew a rebuke from its artificial intelligence ethics board – was meant to “start conversation about this as a potential solution.” Smith said that the discussion that followed “gave us a deeper understanding of the complex and important considerations” on the subject.

As a result, “we are pausing work on this project and refocusing on further engagement with key stakeholders to fully explore the best way forward,” he said. The development was first reported by Reuters.

A few weeks ago, the board voted 8-4 to recommend that Axon not proceed with the pilot run of the Taser drone and raised concerns about the introduction of weapon drones in communities of color with excessive police force.

But after a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, the company announced it was developing a drone. Smith told The Associated Press last week that he went public with the idea in part because he was “catastrophically disappointed” by the response of the police, who didn’t show up to kill the suspect for over an hour.

The board issued a rare public denunciation of the project, saying it was a dangerous idea that went far beyond the original proposal the board considered for a police drone equipped with a stun gun.  He said he “begged the company to drop” before the announcement, and that many of them believed it was “trading the tragedy of the Uvalda and Buffalo shootings.”

Smith dismissed the idea in an AP interview last week and said he’s standing his ground because he believes the Taser drone could be a viable life-saving solution. He argued that this idea needed to be shared as part of a public conversation about school safety and effective ways to safely confront police attackers.

On Monday, nine members of the Ethics Council, a group of respected technology, law enforcement and privacy experts, announced their resignations, saying they “have lost faith in Axon’s ability to be a responsible partner.”

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