Yesterday, the New York Police Department debuted its latest set of high-tech policing equipment. We New York denizens will soon come face to face with robot dogs, daleks, and something new: A pneumatic gun that can fire a sticky GPS tracker at a moving vehicle.
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The launcher is called the Guardian-HX, made by a company called StarChase. It’s meant to create an alternative to the standard police pursuit, allowing cops to remotely track a fleeing vehicle without sending a squad of interceptors to tail it. But, in the hands of a department known for its surveillance abuses, the presence of any new tracking tech is worrying.
The Guardian-HX launcher is based on, of all things, an AR-15 rifle. The Guardian’s lower receiver — the part of the gun that holds the stock, pistol grip, trigger assembly, safety switch, and “magazine” — is interchangeable with any other AR-style rifle. (Amusingly, since the AR’s lower receiver is the part that contains its serial number, these may legally count as AR-15s.) Those accessories, too, are cross-compatible, save for two: The internal trigger assembly and magazine.
That’s because, in the Guardian, the trigger isn’t a trigger, and the magazine isn’t a magazine. The trigger itself is more of a button, an electronic system that activates the release of pressurized gas to propel the GPS projectile. The magazine is actually a battery.
All that tech makes for a single-shot launcher capable of firing one adhesive-tipped GPS tracker before needing its barrel reloaded. That projectile travels at a claimed 37 miles per hour, and has a straight-forward range of 35 feet — though the company claims that, with an arc, it can theoretically reach 60 feet.
Once the GPS tag is adhered to a vehicle, it pings StarChase with its location every two to five seconds. StarChase calls the Guardian a “less-lethal” tool — making one wonder what would be lethal to a motor vehicle, since the Guardian isn’t designed to be used on people.
According to the New York Times, the NYPD has invested $19,500 on the Guardian-HX venture. Jalopnik reached out to StarChase to ask exactly what the NYPD gets for that money, and whether the company will charge the police department any additional fees beyond the initial price (for example, to provide tracking data), but StarChase did not respond by press time.
The NYPD has a long history of abusing surveillance technology, and Mayor Eric Adams has now ensured the department has even more high-tech surveillance equipment at its disposal. Surely, only good things will come from this.