Leading European arms manufacturer Fabrique Nationale Herstal (FN Herstal) has developed a new less-lethal “AI smart-gun” that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to mitigate the risk of fatal encounters during crowd control and public safety operations.
According to FN, the Smart ProtectoR-303T incorporates advanced AI and imaging sensor technology to prevent projectiles from being fired at a person’s head, addressing concerns over the potential lethality of less-lethal weapons.
“This technology drastically reduces the risk of serious and potentially irreversible head-related injuries,” a press release by FN Herstal reads.
The Smart ProtectoR-303T fires an 18mm elastomer projectile that breaks up on impact, placing the smart gun in a category of less-lethal weapons known as “kinetic impact projectile weapons.”
Kinetic impact projectile (KIP) weapons are strategically designed to enforce pain compliance, providing law enforcement with a means to assert control and disperse crowds without resorting to lethal force in situations of civil unrest.
According to FN, the shoulder-fired Smart ProtectoR-303T can “deliver a highly dissuasive impact similar to a baton strike beyond the range of hand-thrown projectiles.”
And while KIPs are designed to subdue rather than kill, the reality is that these weapons can still be deadly, especially when misused.
A 2017 peer-reviewed study based on global medical literature between 1990 and June 2017 found that at least 53 people had died from less-lethal projectiles fired by law enforcement and security forces. Additionally, it was concluded that 71% of the reported injuries from KIP weapons were considered severe, with 300 persons having suffered permanent disabilities.
According to researchers, the vast majority of permanent disabilities and severe injuries were the result of less-lethal projectile strikes to the head and neck.
In another 2017 article, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) further underscored the dangers associated with less-lethal projectile strikes to the head and neck.
“Blunt trauma to the brain can cause concussions and bruising inside the brain (contusions) as well as different types of bleeding in the brain (intracranial hemorrhage) and skull fractures,” PHR wrote. “KIPs have also been known to penetrate the skull or enter the brain tissue, causing hemorrhage, injury to the spinal cord, and severe brain injury from the foreign body.”
To reduce the potential of severe injuries or death, FN says the Smart ProtectoR-303T uses an onboard camera and AI imaging software to detect when the weapon is aimed at a person’s head. In such instances, the trigger locks and prevents the AI smart gun from being fired.
“The unique innovation found on the FN Smart ProtectoR-303T is the integration of an electro-optic solution composed of an onboard camera and image processing software that detects human heads in real-time, providing audible and visual warnings as well as an automated trigger blocking mechanism,” a product overview provided by FN Herstal reads.
By embracing the latest advancements in AI technology, FN Herstal hopes to address the critical issue of exerting control and inflicting harm during civil unrest, riots, or times when less-lethal force is the most appropriate course of action.
The onboard camera also serves a dual purpose by recording images during the discharge of the weapon. This feature provides law enforcement agencies valuable data for after-action reviews or court cases, further fostering accountability and transparency in policing practices.
Per FN Herstal’s press release, the launcher, which propels 18mm FN SP caliber cartridges using compressed air, has an effective range of 16 to 82 feet (5 to 25 meters) and is built upon the FN 303 system. Moreover, the battery life of the unit ranges from five to twelve hours, with an automatic sleep mode to conserve power and the option to attach an external power pack if necessary.
Further emphasizing safety and proficiency, the FN Smart ProtectoR-303T can serve as an integrated training system before missions. Through a specialized app and projection display, officers can enhance their weapon skills, ensuring that the use of force is carefully measured and controlled.
Ultimately, the FN Smart ProtectoR-303T is the latest example of weapons manufacturers integrating advances in artificial intelligence to develop new AI smart guns.
Tim McMillan is a retired law enforcement executive, investigative reporter and co-founder of The Debrief. His writing covers defense, national security, and the Intelligence Community. You can follow Tim on Twitter:@LtTimMcMillan. Tim can be reached by email: email@example.com or through encrypted email:LtTimMcMillan@protonmail.com