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Crowd-control drones reveal the technology's dark side

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The treatment of South African miners has been a troublesome issue ever since 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. A new type of crowd suppression drone from a local defense contractor 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. The Skunk, built by Desert Wolf, is designed to "control unruly crowds without endangering the lives of security staff," and is reportedly already being adopted by mine owners.

Equipped with a 4,000-strong clip and four paintball gun barrels, the Skunk can fire up to 80 projectiles in a single second. It can carry dye markers, pepper spray bullets or even solid plastic balls, which somewhat stretches the definition of "non lethal." The hardware also carries strobe lights and on-board speakers to disorientate and warn the crowd, as well as a FLIR thermal camera for night vision operations. According to defenceWeb, unnamed mine operators have already placed orders for 25 Skunks, which could be deployed as early as next month. Good luck, then, to anyone trying to protest for safer working conditions beyond that date.

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