African firm sells controversial pepper spray drones for aerial crowd control

A pepper-spray bullet firing drone has received its first orders after being shown off at a trade show near Johannesburg

The drones' creator, South African-based firm Desert Wolf, has told reporters that it has secured its first sale of 25 units from an international mining company.

Managing Director Hennie Kieser confirmed the order and added, "We are also busy with a number of other customers who want to finalise their orders."

The 'Skunk Octacopter drone' has been marketed as a "riot control copter" that can be used to tackle crowds "without endangering the lives of security staff."

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However, not everyone agrees. Tim Noonan, a spokesperson from the International Trade Union Confederation, was quick to criticise the device, "This is a deeply disturbing and repugnant development and we are convinced that any reasonable government will move quickly to stop the deployment of advanced battlefield technology on workers or indeed the public involved in legitimate protests and demonstrations."

He added that the ITUC would urgently attempt to uncover the identity of the mining company in question.

Noel Sharkey, chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms, echoed Noonan's views, "Using pepper spray against a crowd of protesters is a form of torture and should not be allowed. We urgently need an investigation by the international community before these drones are used."

According to Desert Wolf's website, the drone is fitted with four high-capacity paintball barrels that can fire pepper-spray bullets, dye-marker balls or solid plastic balls.

It can carry up to 4,000 bullets, as well as featuring "blinding lasers" and on-board speakers.