A company that developed a massive database for police body cameras has joined forces with the world’s biggest manufacturer of consumer unmanned aerial vehicles to sell surveillance drones to police departments. The data storage and sharing capabilities along with the development of artificial intelligence (AI) applications create the potential for an invasive surveillance platform that would make Big Brother drool. 

Axon sells police body cameras and Tasers. It also developed a cloud-based data storage system called Evidence.com for police video, audio and other digital information. Axon has teamed up with China-based drone manufacturer DJI to sell a line of drones dubbed “Azon Air.” The video camera-equipped drones can upload data directly to the cloud for instant analysis.

According to Axon, more than 200,000 public safety professionals currently use Evidence.com. The system was originally developed to store and process body camera video, but it has expanded into a large-scale police data storage system. Through Evidence.com, law enforcement agencies can instantly analyze, categorize and share reams of raw data. A company spokesperson told Slate, “all digital data including PDFs, crime scene photos, CCTV footage, in-car cameras, and now DJI drone video can be associated to a single case file.”

Police departments own and maintain control of all the data they upload into the system, but they can easily share information with other agencies. In effect, Evidence.com creates a privately owned, centralized system that state, local and federal law enforcement agencies can all tap into and share information. For example, police in Phoenix could share a video with officers in Boston, or the FBI could access drone footage shot in Montgomery, Ala., all with just a few clicks of a mouse.

As Slate put it, “By combining drone, body-camera, police-car-camera, and closed-circuit-TV footage, Axon is clearly hoping to create a central hub for police to cross-reference and access surveillance data—a treasure chest of information.”

The threat to privacy becomes more acute when you factor in facial recognition and AI technology. According to Slate, Axon CEO Rick Smith recently said his company is actively considering using facial recognition with its camera technology. And as Defense One reports, footage captured by Axon drones could be instantly analyzed by AI systems not revealed to the public.

A paper, titled “Eye in the Sky,” details how drone footage could be used to detect “violent individuals” in real-time.


But critics question the accuracy of these AI algorithms,