Technology is accelerating faster than ever — including in public safety. How do we continue to innovate and advance technology, while keeping our communities healthy, free and safe? How do we ensure that exponential technological growth is a force for good?
The future of policing will be shaped by a complex interplay of technological, social and political factors with the ultimate goal of creating safer, more equitable communities. Axon strives to help public safety serve the communities that they are sworn to protect.
It’s why Axon’s mission is focused on the sanctity of life. We recently announced a collective moonshot goal to reduce gun-related deaths between police and the public by 50% in the next decade. We are counting on our peers, customers, communities and thought leaders to play a part in this critical goal, through more innovative technology, training and in building trust through greater insights and data to inform progress.
As part of that moonshot effort, we are putting our best minds toward identifying solutions that help keep first responders and communities out of immediate danger. Axon believes that robotic security will play an important role in extending visibility and communications, and increasing situational awareness to save lives. Robotic security includes unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, as well as unmanned ground vehicles (UGV).
Axon Air: A Force for Good
Axon has seen tremendous value in its current end-to-end drone solution, Axon Air, which includes drone software, hardware, and training, designed to increase operational efficiency and improve outcomes in some of the most challenging use cases in public safety. UAVs and UGVs are already playing an increasingly important role in search and rescue, natural disaster response, and crime and accident scene reconstruction. Robotics also include a new evolving category: Drone as a First Responder (DFR) programs. DFR provides unprecedented situational awareness by allowing public safety agencies to remotely operate drones from anywhere, resulting in faster response times and improved decision making.
We estimate about 20% of US state and local law enforcement agencies have implemented drone programs so far, with more growing interest as we are witnessing firsthand the public benefits of these programs.
“Drones are a huge force multiplier for agencies. 90% of the time, they’ll reach a scene before an officer can. Drones can help us clear a lot of calls and reduce the number of officers needed per call. The future is bright for this technology in law enforcement.” - Chad Karlewicz, Commander of Special Operations, Renton Police Department
UAVs and UVGs deployed to dangerous scenes are granting public safety improved situational awareness and limiting the need for use of force. Drones are also supplementing officer capacity, providing additional support for sometimes strained and always-stretched staff members — allowing faster emergency response times. Chula Vista Police Department, which deployed the nation’s first drone as a first responder (DFR) program, was able to reduce average emergency response time to under two minutes. This is less than half the national average for ground-based units. The agency’s DFR mission count now exceeds 14,000 — about 25% of which were resolved without the need to deploy officer units.
Axon also utilizes drones as part of Axon Aid, our charitable disaster recovery program supporting first responders. At no cost to the public, Axon deploys an aid team who delivers critical supplies and helps first responders assess damage. We founded Axon Aid in the wake of Hurricane Florence (2018), where Axon-operated drones enabled first responders to survey a wide area and more quickly direct resources to locations in need. After a natural disaster, the ground can become impassable. UAVs and UVGs are increasingly supplementing search and rescue and helping to save lives.
Building a runway for safe and ethical flight
One of the ethical principles we start with is that everyone deserves to feel safe in their own community. Axon brings an ethics-first lens to all of our research & development practices, including in the area of robotic security. This means that we consider the problem that customers are seeking to solve and we research the best ways to solve it. We do this in parallel to developing training, innovating to prevent misuse and designing technology controls that enable transparency and oversight.
One of the biggest problems facing society today is specific to acts of extreme violence. We see it as a moral imperative to find more humane, effective, and more carefully controlled approaches to stopping these acts. When central command observes a highly dangerous event unfolding, what actions can be taken swiftly and safely without requiring the time and risk of waiting for heavily armed people with lethal weapons to deploy to the scene? We are exploring ways that technology can help answer that question.
We are also exploring how technology can help save lives in instances involving high-risk entry into buildings. Such incidents can tragically result in a loss of life to officers or members of the public. Drones enable visibility and communication that can start the de-escalation process prior to direct human interaction and could reduce the frequency of use-of-force incidents.
“Drones helped rule out several suspects when looking for a violent fugitive wanted for aggravated assault. This directly reduced the use of force as each instance represented one fewer citizen who would previously have been detained at gun point… Axon Air is the hub of our drone program – we view every other piece of software and hardware through the lens of how well it plays with Axon Air." - Ross Stinson, Sergeant, Dallas (TX) Police Department
We also believe we have a responsibility to step in and drive solutions so that wherever lethal weapons exist, Axon invests to ensure the public has access to less-lethal alternatives. We continue to expand our research and development pipeline with this in mind. On a longer time horizon, Axon sees opportunities to explore how robotics can expand to include less-lethal robotic payloads and operations. While this is still in early concept, we believe with ample research, ethical development and identifying the most amenable use cases, this capability can positively contribute to the future of public safety.
We stand by a continued commitment to innovate for greater, safer public safety and have a responsibility to advance this dialogue ethically and with our eyes always trained towards racial equity. Our entire product suite embodies ethical design. For example, Axon has already built accountability into Axon Air from the ground up and has set the standard for ethical practice when utilizing drone technology in public safety.
A unified flight for the future
When we build for the future, we collaborate with our trusted constituencies. We work with governments, city councils, public safety, industry partners, legislators and policy makers, and community advocates to garner insight as we innovate. We also engage with our valued Ethics & Equity Advisory Council (EEAC), who routinely provides feedback throughout the product design process, helping us ensure that we are investing to build a future that we all want to live in. We also commit to investing in a less-lethal future, which means advancements in technology to help make policing smarter, more effective, and safer.
We will continue to listen and learn from valuable constituents in communities and across public safety to ensure our efforts meet a high foundational bar of ethical standards, which includes rigorous technological controls and stop gaps to avoid misuse.
The future of policing will include more robotic security and we will continue to innovate. We wholeheartedly support UAVs and UVGs as a force for good when deployed in an ethical manner, with optimal training and under the right circumstances.
We aren’t doing this alone and we are grateful for the diverse coalition of partners who provide feedback, ask the hard questions, and ensure that we are investing to build a future that we all want to live in.
We look forward to innovating toward the future of public safety in service of our moonshot in the US and our mission globally. Interested in learning more about the moonshot? Visit www.thisisourmoonshot.com