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In a very near future scenario, a society developed high flying drones equipped with cameras. Together with satellite surveillance, law enforcement can check whether citizens behave in accordance with the law. This functions in a manner similar to modern surveillance drones utilized by some armies and private companies today. The addition is an AI to coordinate and control them in an optimized manner.

The drone program has been well received by society. People are happy with the rapid intervention of the police, and streamlining/speed up of investigations.

Leadership now wants to take the next step and replace on the street law-enforcement officers with drones.

  • The technology is very promising, and the first field-tests are pretty conclusive.
  • Unfortunately, the polls show me that people aren't ready to give the right to harm or kill to machines.
  • In response, a trial period will be held, were traditional weapons are replaced with something non-lethal.

That new system should be along the lines of

  • It should be installed on the flying drones controlled by a central AI;
  • It should "attack" the persons who would have been judged (by the AI) as being a danger to the others (like Police would be shooting, to harm or to kill) and/or to the surveillance or enforcement drones themselves;
  • It should "tag" that person, so that the police can effectively identify on the spot who was responsible for the problems.

One idea that engineers have floated is using paint balls. However due to accuracy problems, the tactics of the drones have to change, requiring they get closer to their intended targets. Additionally paint balls may result in injury, which leadership would like to avoid at all cost, to maintain a positive public perception.

To convince the population, I want something that is as harmless as possible. Ideally it should simulate a real weapon, mark the victim, and preferably do so without making the victim aware they have been tagged.

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  • $\begingroup$ the last points were added to avoid that question being too broad. And amongst realistic options, the most harmless will be prefered. If it is still too broad, let me know. $\endgroup$ – bilbo_pingouin Aug 4 '15 at 8:54
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    $\begingroup$ "This has been well received by the society" - So this world has nothing to do with ours. $\endgroup$ – Sempie Aug 4 '15 at 11:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Sempie, not sure about that. See the increasing numbers of cameras in cities. The Patriot Act. Etc. Ok, maybe I should nuance it a bit: "Mostly well received". $\endgroup$ – bilbo_pingouin Aug 4 '15 at 11:06
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    $\begingroup$ Without looking for sources, i claim that there are far more civilians which encourage less survilliance than those who want more. However, this isn't the point of your question ;-) $\endgroup$ – Sempie Aug 4 '15 at 11:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Sempie Well, it's a given that anybody who complained about the increased surveillance had something to hide, and is therefore a criminal. Indeed, the arrest and incarceration of these dangerous renegades was touted as a major success for the new system. : ) $\endgroup$ – Doug Warren Aug 4 '15 at 13:42
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I think the best solution for the initial stages of your project is some form of electronic monitoring.

RF ID tags could be a solid way to go, though the delivery system and range would be tricky.

Hitachi Unveils Smallest RFID Chip

The Japanese chip maker recently showed off an RFID microchip that is just 0.3 square millimeter square. RF ID tags can be pretty dang small.

So for this system to work you would need

  • A delivery system
  • A mechanism to increase the range at which the chips are readable (in the article the range is about one foot).

For a delivery system I would say mini drone...if you are already using AI to manage an entire network, having a fly shaped and sized drone land on a guy, drop off a tiny marker and fly off, seems perfectly plausible to me.

Same goes for improving the range. Create some specialized reader, or a new type of chip to fix the range issue.

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So, at first you want something entirely harmless used only to mark the assailant. One thing comes to mind - darts with easily traceable radioactive isotope. The aerodynamics would still be different from real bullets, but I find that hard to avoid with harmless solutions.

To avoid harm while firing such darts the drones should not target vital, uncovered parts of the body, like, for example, face. That would require some different programming, but I think that it would benefit you in the long run - after switching to live ammo you could still target non-vital parts in order to incapacitate the victim without killing them on the spot.

With darts you could also quite easily move on to more harmful solutions, for example filling them with sleeping/paralyzing drugs instead of tracers.

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SmartWater or SelectaDNA style spray. It's a liquid spray with a unique identifier. Can even be colorless while lighting up under a blacklight.

As a waterbased liquid it's quite harmless. Just equip the drone with spray. It can last for months and can't be washed off. But at the same time doesn't impede the target in any way. Even a missfire should have minimal impact.

Now the only issue I think is range. Much like paintballs this would have a limited range. You could of course add them into a capsule but at that point you basically got a paint ball with all the issues.

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