Los Angeles hockey fans proved last week that even the friendliest of drones can get a nasty reception from rowdy crowds. But the booze-fueled celebrants may have reacted even more violently if they encountered this drone.
The Skunk is billed as the first riot-control drone: It fires pepper spray, rubber bullets and dye-balls at protesters; blinds them with strobes; and broadcasts audible warnings, all while keeping its all-seeing eye trained on the crowd and recording their actions.
The octocopter is a product of the South African company Desert Wolf. Armed with four paintball guns and ammunition hoppers, it can fire a variety of ammunition to subdue or disperse unruly crowds, or simply mark certain people in the group.
The Skunk is designed to control crowds without endangering the lives of security staff. Bright strobe lights, on-board speakers and "blinding lasers," the company boasts, enable operators to communicate with and warn the crowd.
But if they don't respond, look out.
"The Skunk is equipped with four high-capacity paint ball barrels firing at up to 20 bullets per second each, with 80 pepper bullets per second stopping any crowd in its tracks," Desert Wolf says on its site. "The current hopper capacity of 4000 bullets and high-pressure carbon fiber air system it allows for real stopping power."
According to Defence Web, payload capacity of the unmanned aerial vehicle is roughly 88 pounds but since the gun assembly weighs just over 30 pounds, the aircraft has an excess of power. And Desert Wolf has found its first customer for the intimidating machine: South African mine owners, hoping to control crowds of workers.
But as Engadget noted, this only adds to the troublesome history of treatment for these laborers.
"Black laborers were forced into the mines in 1894. It's led to a series of bloody strikes and protests, starting in 1946 and continuing through apartheid right up until today. (The Skunk) isn't going to help matters, especially given the fact that the country is in the grip of a 21-week miners' strike in which some protestors have already been killed."
Sure, you say, but this would never happen in the states. Actually, the requests are already out there; police in Florida supported a bill last year asking to remove the restriction to use drones in the cases of riot control, terrorism and searching for missing children. According to WKMG-TV, in response to the police request, state Sen. Joe Negron said the exception would have allowed King George to use drones against the Boston Tea Party if the unmanned aircraft had existed in the 18th century.
How would you react if your local or federal law enforcement personnel had this drone for crowd control use? What about a private company?