The Development of Taser Technologies by Brett Anderson, June 5th, 2016
Over the past few years, there have been many developments in the technologies behind emerging models of tasers. The techniques by which tasers are created has advanced. The methods that tasers use to generate their shocking power (both literal and figurative) has advanced. Even the manner in which tasers are operated in the field has changed. It’s important to note that this article will not be an exhaustive list of the numerous advancements in the world of tasers. There are simply too many to report in one article. We will be examining the primary advancements with the biggest impact in the world of non-lethal weaponry.
As with most modern technologies, chip design, power generation, software packages, and the specialized engineering equipment used to manufacture the evolving devices have advanced to allow for smaller and smaller sizes. Tasers are no different. The newest taser models are smaller, lighter, and more user friendly than at any other time in history. The best example of these features is the Taser X26 which was introduced to the general public in 2011. With the introduction of the X26, a more modern design emerged. The comparison between the X26 and its predecessor, the Taser M26 has been described as noting the design differences between a 10 year old camera and the latest digital camera. According to a report by Police Magazine.com, “The X26 does essentially the same job as the M26, but it is a full sixty percent smaller and lighter…”
Responding to feedback from law enforcement agencies around the world, Taser International made the decision to apply a whole new design concept to the Taser X26. In order to transform the Taser M26 platform into the redesigned Taser X26, the engineers at Taser International were forced to develop new design methods to generate the same stopping power in a unit that is a full 60% smaller. This led the expert designers to combine a shorter handle, a modern battery pack, redesigned circuitry, and lighter materials to streamline the weapon into the new look and feel of the Taser X26.
Modern Battery Power
Early taser models used a number of alkaline “AA” batteries to power the device while newer models use a proprietary lithium battery pack that is much smaller than a group of “AA’s”. The lighter battery packs allowed for a couple of improvements. First, there were no loose batteries to place in the taser. This meant the opportunity to incorrectly load the batteries – a common problem in law enforcement agencies at that time – was eliminated. In those loose battery models it was common for officers to mistakenly invert one or more batteries. This battery issue meant that the taser was rendered useless. If an officer was in the field, he or she would be wielding a powerless taser and would have to take time to properly reload the batteries while in the midst of a potentially dangerous or lethal situation.
Secondly, if a battery change was required in the new model, the new battery packs allowed the exchange to be accomplished in a much faster manner. The battery packs also reduced the size and weight compared to the load of “AA” batteries previously needed. The updated battery pack created one issue however. With the redesigned smaller size, engineers had to figure out how to retain the voltage needed to power to the new models.
New Power Model: Shaped Charge
Engineers addressed the power concerns with an adjustment to how the taser is powered. This meant rethinking the voltage requirement needed to incapacitate targets. After many months of trial and error tests, the engineers had their solution. With the Taser M26, 26 watts were required to drive the electrical pulses generated when tasing an assailant. The resulting X26 model required only 5 watts.
This massive reduction in watts was only effective once engineers developed what is now referred to as a “shaped pulse.” This breakthrough opened the door for a more effective use of the energy being transferred from the taser probes into the assailant. While previous models required multiple pulses per second to transfer the energy, emerging models use a single pulse to create the preliminary energy contact and then increase the initial charge to deliver the remainder of the pulsed charge.
This “shaped pulse” has been described by leaders of Taser International as knocking down a door. While previous models used a technique much like a battering ram that smashes through the door, emerging models use a key to unlock the door and open it for easy entry.
One of the biggest innovations in taser technology was the addition of a second shot in the Taser X2. In early taser models, if the taser deployment was unsuccessful, the user would have to attempt a quick reload in order to fire a second shot. With the unveiling of the Taser X2, the possibility of an additional or “back up shot” was born. This additional shot feature offers police officers and civilians a second chance in the event of a missed shot. The additional shot will no provide an insurance policy if the first deployment misses its mark. According to Taser International, “A backup shot removes any need to manually reload and improves safety and performance in the case of a missed shot or clothing disconnect.”
Another great step forward for Taser International is the dual laser feature which promotes an increase in the accuracy of deploying the probes. This addition removes the guesswork of lining up the shot. It does so by pinpointing to the user precisely where the probes will come into contact with the target.
A third innovation that has changed the taser landscape is the warning arc. The warning arc is designed as an early warning system which issues an audible warning to the potential assailant. This visual and audible display of power tends to motivate attackers to rethink their next steps, both literally and figuratively. Field data suggests that it has reduced the number of confrontations with criminals where taser deployment was necessary. “All of our initial field uses of the X2 resulted in voluntary surrenders upon display of the warning arc…,” said Kevin Sailor of the Westminster Police Department.
“Following suit with the historical changes in the lethal weapons market, tasers have moved from a single shot platform to a multiple shot platform. It is safe to say that the days of a single shot taser are numbered. Taser International confirms it on their website where they state, “The days of the single-shot electrical weapon will soon be a thing of the past.” It is a new day for taser platforms. Emerging models are lighter, smarter, and more user friendly than ever.
Each of the innovations mentioned in this article and others unmentioned have led two models – the Taser X26P and the Taser X2 – to be crowned “smart weapons.” The difference between smart weapons and previous models is similar to the emergence of smart phones from previous models. Advancements in processing speeds, chip and circuitry technologies, and more powerful software have propelled forward powerful “smart devices.” The future is sure to bring more smart weapons showcasing the “latest and greatest” cutting edge technologies.