Axon halts Taser drone work as some on ethics panel said to resign

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Taser-maker Axon Enterprise Inc told Reuters on Sunday it was halting work on a project to equip drones with stun guns to combat mass shootings, a prospect that one member of its AI ethics board said was prompting a mass exodus from the panel.

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The May 24 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 21 prompted an announcement by Axon last week that it was working on a drone that could be operated remotely by first responders to fire a Taser at a target up to 40 feet (12 m) away.

“In light of feedback, we are pausing work on this project and refocusing to further engage with key constituencies to fully explore the best path forward,” Chief Executive Rick Smith said in a statement on Sunday.

Earlier, board member Wael Abd-Almageed told Reuters he and eight colleagues were resigning from the 12-member panel, in a rare public rebuke by one of the watchdog groups that some companies have set up in recent years.

The aim behind such groups is to gather feedback on emerging technologies, such as drones and artificial intelligence (AI) software.

Smith said it was unfortunate that some members of the ethics advisory panel “have chosen to withdraw from directly engaging on these issues before we heard or had a chance to address their technical questions.”

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