The idea of cops sending in drones to Taser suspects may sound far-fetched, but police in the U.S. are reportedly already discussing the possibility.
Talks have recently taken place between police officials and Taser International, a company that makes stun guns and body cameras for use by law enforcement, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
While no decision has yet been made on whether to strap stun guns to remotely controlled quadcopters, Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle said his team were discussing the idea with officials as part of broader talks about “various future concepts.”
Tuttle told the Journal that such technology could be deployed in “high-risk scenarios such as terrorist barricades” to incapacitate the suspect rather than kill them outright.
An indication of police willingness to explore high-tech solutions for challenging situations came in July when Dallas cops killed a violent suspect with a bomb delivered by a robot. In a similar situation, a Taser-equipped drone could enable law enforcement to incapacitate a suspect at a safe distance before moving in to make an arrest.
However, critics are likely to fear that such a plan would ultimately lead to the police loading up drones with guns and other weapons.
Portland police department’s Pete Simpson told the Journal that while a Taser drone could be useful in some circumstances, getting the public “to accept an unmanned vehicle that’s got some sort of weapon on it might be a hurdle to overcome.”
Simpson added that it’s nevertheless useful to discuss how technology can play a role in “improving officer safety, community safety, and suspect safety.”
The idea of a Taser-equipped quadcopter is actually nothing new, with at least one company already having built such a contraption. But police have so far only ever deployed stun guns on the ground, manually, and within close proximity of the target.
The day when U.S. citizens see cop-controlled weaponized quadcopters flying overhead may be a ways off, but take note, cops in India already have similar technology in their collection of crime-fighting tools. Several drones equipped with pepper spray canisters were delivered to police in the Indian city of Lucknow last year to allow officers to deal more effectively with unruly crowds.
At the time, Lucknow’s police chief described the modified quadcopter as “brilliant,” adding that his specially trained pilots had “managed to work out how to use it to precisely target the mob in winds and congested areas.”