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SXSW ’14: Don’t Tase Me, Drone! Experimental Stun Copter Spurs Conversation

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The Project C.U.P.I.D. drone at Chaotic Moon -- minus the on-board stun gun. (Michael Calhoun/KMOX)

The Project C.U.P.I.D. drone at Chaotic Moon — minus the on-board stun gun. (Michael Calhoun/KMOX)

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A native St. Louisan, Michael Calhoun grew up listening to the Voice...
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AUSTIN, Tex. (KMOX) – It’s called Project C.U.P.I.D., but don’t expect any love from this drone.

Creative studio Chaotic Moon demonstrated their Chaotic Unmanned Personal Intercept Drone, basically a taser drone, to a small gathering at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival.

The firm says C.U.P.I.D. “can deliver 80,000 volts of pure projectile terror directly into the skin of an ill-intentioned hoodlum.”

.

A group of us St. Louisans huddled over our iPads at a downtown Austin bar on Sunday night — as you’d stereotypically expect from attendees of a tech festival — riveted by the above video of the taser drone taking down an intern.

We’re already hotly debating the use of drones — but mostly for surveillance purposes.

The University of Missouri’s School of Journalism had to ground its drone journalism program and St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson recently expressed a desire to fly drones in the same way a police helicopter is currently used.

The word “weaponized” was not part of the Chief’s vocabulary at the time.

Chaotic Moon’s headquarters is in a loft just a block away from the Austin Convention Center, so I walked over Monday to try and get an in-person glimpse of the machine.

Chaotic Moon's workshop in Austin, TX (Michael Calhoun/KMOX)

Chaotic Moon’s workshop in Austin, TX (Michael Calhoun/KMOX)

Firm founder William Hurley told me that their intent was, essentially, to shock and awe.

“We’re engineers and we wanted to give an example of something that is actually very feasible for a number of people to pull off,” he said, adding that Chaotic Moon this year plans to demonstrate a series of surprising (shocking?) uses of technology. Hurley just wants the world to be able to debate the likely future — or at least brace for it.

“Why are we not paying attention to how fast technology is outpacing society, as far as governance and our acceptance of it,” he said.

The video shows Chaotic Moon intern Jackson Sheehan standing on a crash mat with a helmet on, surrounded by spectators. The drone’s blades whirr and it floats into the air. Sheehan takes an “aggressive stance” and the drone hones in on its target with a laser sight. At that point, Hurley said Sheehan was told to turn around and the drone fired its two electrified barbed tips. Sheehan’s muscles spasmed and he went down.

The willing victim was incapacitated for about five seconds.

“He was actually pretty excited about the project,” Hurley said. “We actually had a five member team and a rangemaster, just as if we were doing some very large military operation. Jackson recovered very well and very quickly.”

The country is now calling Chaotic Moon, including law enforcement agencies from all corners.

Hurley understands why: “Do you want a police officer running down an alley, like you see in a T.V. show, chasing after a person with their gun drawn and maybe they could shoot, maybe a bullet could hit a kid? Or, what about the drone that could do facial recognition, find the exact person you are looking for, follow them down the alley, stun them with this 80,000 volts, incapacitate them and the officers just come after and handcuff them and take them in.”

That said, Chaotic Moon isn’t giving the drone (or the instructions on how to build it) to anybody.

 “With all technologies, there’s a good side and a bad side. It’s a double-edged sword and what we’re trying to do is bring awareness and bring a conversation about important technology issues.”

More St. Louis SXSW Coverage:

St. Louisans Caravan to Austin With Big Dreams

Michael talks with Brian and Maria on Total Information Saturday

Michael checks in with Total Information Sunday on day two in Austin

Is St. Louis Really Becoming a ‘Start-Up City’?

Mark Reardon talks with Michael about Snowden’s speech and more

Michael and FoodEssentials’Anton Xavier chat with Charlie Brennan

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