Weaponized Drones Approved For North Dakota Police - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Government
News
8/28/2015
09:06 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
100%
0%

Weaponized Drones Approved For North Dakota Police

A bill in North Dakota will allow non-lethal weapons on police drones. Nothing to fear here, move along.

Drones: 10 Novel Uses For Your City
Drones: 10 Novel Uses For Your City
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Don't tase me, drone! We might soon hear that shout throughout North Dakota. In a strange bit of political maneuvering, a bill aimed at making sure that police didn't put weapons on drones turned into a bill that accomplished exactly the opposite. North Dakota police can now put Tasers, pepper spray, and all types of non-lethal weapons on their drones.

Let's face it. It was only a matter of time. Since the military drone program was made public, drone sales have gone through the roof for government and private sector use. Numbers are difficult to pin down, because the word drone can mean anything from a fully loaded military fighter jet with anti-aircraft missiles and bunker buster bombs to the toy quad-copter you bought your kid for Christmas. 

Drone expert Chris Anderson puts the number at half a million in 2014. Chances are, sometime this year, the number of drones in the US will surpass the number of people living in North Dakota.

Police in India have already equipped drones with pepper spray for riot control, so this isn't even the first weaponized police drone. Should we care anymore? Is this the natural evolution of the drone?

(Image: Brigadier Lance Mans via Wikipedia)

(Image: Brigadier Lance Mans via Wikipedia)

A lot of it depends on what you think of police in general. After all, there's a cop on the other side of every drone who is deciding whether or not to pull the trigger.

[ People do seem to really like drones. Read Drone Study Shows Consumers Are Ready. ]

There are some disturbing questions regarding how an officer might choose to use a service weapon in the field rather than deploy a drone while safely out of harm's way. Will an officer who is out of danger watching a scene unfold on video be more likely to fire because he or she won't think of potential targets as real people? Or is an officer who is not in danger better equipped to make a dispassionate decision than an officer who may feel threatened in the field? Whether to shoot or not is the hardest decision a police officer has to make.

Military bomber pilots push a button from 30,000 feet in the air and see explosions. Military drone pilots sometimes get a more personal look at who they shoot, because they often kill specific targets they're seeing via camera. Military drone pilots speak of spending weeks circling the home of a high-value target, watching the person talk to friends, eat meals, have relations with their spouses, and even go to the bathroom. It is a strange intimacy with someone you might end up attacking. It is likely police drone pilots would get similar views into hostage situations and other standoffs.

The most important things to know about drone operators? They will work endless hours and they're called into every dangerous situation. If the police can use a drone to stay out of danger -- they will. That means the a drone operator may be called on to make the first decision -- whether or not to fire whatever weapon the drone is armed with. Otherwise they might be constantly following orders from others about when to fire. In the process, they will see into the homes of suspects, watch their daily lives, and decide if they are threats. They will make a decision to take someone down in the name of protecting an officer or a civilian.

They'll do it over long hours. Even the military can't train enough pilots. More pilots are quitting each year than graduating from training. The work is hours of boredom followed by minutes of agonizing stress.

When we decide to put a Taser on a drone, we're actually putting the Taser in the hands of someone going through all of the associated overwork, boredom, stress, and potential dissociation from the target. It changes the equation.

At the same time, the decision might have been made for us. A "civilian" has already put a handgun on a drone, and it was ruled that he didn't break the law. The world's first police firefight from drone to drone is inevitable. Once it happens lawmakers will be under more pressure than ever to weaponize drones further. It isn't unlike when the car and the machine gun turned bank robbers into folk heroes and villains in the 1920s.

The weaponized drone is here. The only question is how we feel about it, and what to do.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
yalanand
0%
100%
yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
8/28/2015 | 2:07:43 PM
Alarming
This just goes on to show how brutally the police force are arming themselves against the onslaught of potential criminals. However these drones can be hacked and when they are, they would pose a threat to civilians by the lot.
yalanand
0%
100%
yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
8/28/2015 | 2:10:12 PM
Never trusted them
I could never trust the police of USA. I felt threatened around them than safe. I think its a really bad idea to be giving these lawmen things that dissolve the thin line between order and havoc. To the police force using drones may be considered order but to regular citizens like me and you, that is just terrifying. Crossfire casualties would be enormous.
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
8/28/2015 | 2:19:00 PM
Re: Alarming
@yalanand- I agree the hacking is a potential issue though we see now police cars can be hacked too. I guess i have to take a little issue with the idea that the police are doing something brutal here. Compared to an actual gun which they all carry, I'd rather get hit by a taser. If this saves lives, i'm all for it. the issue in my mind is that implementation is going to be rough.
impactnow
50%
50%
impactnow,
User Rank: Author
8/28/2015 | 3:07:05 PM
Re: Alarming
Dave I would also be very concerned about a malfunctioning drone that was equipped with weaponry attacking the wrong target . Hopefully this will only be used in very controlled environments . We have seen military mistakes in the past target schools in enemy territory because of errors that would be an unspeakable tragedy. I don't know that I'm ready for this in my local police department .
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
8/28/2015 | 3:51:11 PM
Re: Alarming
@impactnow- Right. if used properly, they should only be used in situations where an officer is not the best option. But we've seen technology misused before.
PedroGonzales
50%
50%
PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
8/29/2015 | 1:43:08 PM
Re: Alarming
I wouldn't like for drones to be in the hands of people who are stressed out and bored.  I bet police departments will be held liable if their drones harm innocent people's life. I agree with you David, if there is a situation where an officer's life will put his life in danger, then our drone police force will go into action.       
SunitaT0
50%
50%
SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
8/30/2015 | 2:39:48 PM
Re: Alarming
I think there should be gun control laws imposed on the public. Some businesses would be damaged, true, but mugging and murders would be lessened.
SunitaT0
50%
50%
SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
8/30/2015 | 2:43:39 PM
Re: Alarming
While I was in Detroit, I had a really bad experience with an officer of law. There was some unrest, people were protesting something, I was at a diner and suddenly I saw the policeman beside me cocked his gun and went outside to see what the commotion was about. He came in when he saw it was a peaceful protest, did not holster the gun, put it down beside me and kept munching his sandwich. I had never seen a gun before and I was shivering at the thought of how this cocked gun would go off and kill me. I had to ask the lawman to holster it because it was freaking me out.
SunitaT0
50%
50%
SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
8/30/2015 | 2:45:31 PM
Re: Alarming
@David: like infiltrating a high value target's lair, which would be overly guarded. Drones would be useful in destroying drug cartels.
SunitaT0
50%
50%
SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
8/30/2015 | 2:46:56 PM
Re: Alarming
@yalanand: yes drones can be hacked, but the worst case scenario would be when somebody is pointing a gun at you in a hostage situation and there is no drone to put him down.
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
Commentary
2021 Outlook: Tackling Cloud Transformation Choices
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  1/4/2021
News
Enterprise IT Leaders Face Two Paths to AI
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  12/23/2020
Slideshows
10 IT Trends to Watch for in 2021
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  12/22/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
Download this report to compare how cloud usage and spending patterns have changed in 2020, and how respondents think they'll evolve over the next two years.
Video
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you.
Slideshows
Flash Poll