Axon has formally begun development of a non-lethal, remotely-operated TASER drone system as part of a long-term plan to stop mass shootings, and reaffirmed it is committed to public engagement and dialogue during the development process. This includes accelerating detection and improving real-time situational awareness of active shooter events, enhancing first responder effectiveness through VR training, and deploying remotely operated non-lethal drones capable of incapacitating an active shooter in less than 60 seconds.
"Today, the only viable response to a mass shooter is another person with a gun," says Axon CEO and founder Rick Smith. "In the aftermath of these events, we get stuck in fruitless debates. We need new and better solutions. For this reason, we have elected to publicly engage communities and stakeholders, and develop a remotely operated, non-lethal drone system that we believe will be a more effective, immediate, humane, and ethical option to protect innocent people."
"In my 2019 book, The End of Killing, I described in detail how such a system could work, as illustrated in this graphic novel. Now is the time to make this technology a reality—and to begin a robust public discussion around how to ethically introduce non-lethal drones into schools. I proposed the Three Laws of First Responder Robotics to lay the groundwork of an ethical and legal framework to safeguard these systems so that we can improve public safety and avoid misuse. Today is the next step as Axon will begin formal product development on technology centered around these ideas," continues Smith.
The non-lethal drone is part of a three-part strategy to stop mass shooter events:
1 - Integrate camera networks and other sensors into real-time communications with first responders.
Axon recently announced a partnership with Fusus, which allows schools, businesses or other enterprises to connect and share security camera feeds with local public safety and other security partners. With this integration, Axon body cameras, Axon Fleet dashboard cameras, and Axon Air-powered drones with the Fusus network will provide real-time access to a wide network of sensors during critical events. Fusus gives full and secure control of data sharing to the owner of each camera and sensor, so they can choose exactly when access is shared and with whom. This is available today through the partnership with Fusus.
"Trying to find and stop an active shooter based on the telephone game connecting victim 911 callers is antiquated," says Chris Lindenau, CEO of Fusus. "Fusus brings the ability to share any security camera to first responders, providing known locations and visual live feeds regardless of which security cameras they use. This network of cameras, with human and AI monitoring, together with panic buttons and other local communication tools, can detect and ID a threat before a shot is fired and dramatically improve response times and situational awareness."
2 - Enhance first responder effectiveness through immersive Virtual Reality (VR) Active Shooter Response Training. Axon recently launched Virtual Reality Simulator Training to provide highly immersive and engaging training experiences for public safety. Through partnerships with key expert and stakeholder groups, Axon will develop and deliver more effective training for responding to mass shooting events in the next 12 months.
3 - Enable immediate threat incapacitation through remotely operated, non-lethal drone capability.
Axon is actively developing a miniaturized, lightweight TASER payload capable of being deployed on a small drone or robot. Axon has begun collaborating with our partner DroneSense on a remote piloting capability and our imaging team will develop the targeting algorithms to assist operators in properly and safely aiming the device. Note that all use-of-force decisions will be made by an authenticated and authorized human operator who has agreed to take legal and moral responsibility for any force actions initiated. Axon is collaborating with a variety of drone hardware providers and will make a selection later this year on final development partner(s). Functional proof of concept will be available in 2023 with a full solution ready in 2024.
"In 2020, 3,500 people died in fires in the United States. That same year, 45,222 people died of firearm related injuries. There are over 10 million fire hydrants pre-emplaced in the United States, and every modern building has fire suppression systems to contain fires until fire-fighters can arrive," notes Smith. "I believe we can create systems that can detect, deter, and ultimately stop a shooter within a building for a comparable cost as, or less than, fire suppression systems."