Security-conscious authorities will be using a variety of devices and technology to monitor the skies, streets and waterways around Tampa during next week’s Republican National Convention. Cameras, helicopters and law enforcement officers all will be employed to help look for suspicious activity and possible threats.
Add to that mix one more technology: drones.
This will mark the first time unmanned aerial vehicles will patrol the skies over a national convention, according to an engineer with a Naples company that builds and will operate the drones. The vehicle, called an Aether Aero, is an eight-bladed vertical takeoff platform that will provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to government agencies, according to Curt Winter, an engineer with United Drones.
The battery-powered, 4 1/2-foot-wide Aether Aero, which resembles a small helicopter, can fly up to 4,000 feet high and can operate up to four hours, Winter said. It is equipped with a 109x optical zoom camera, can lift up to 50 pounds and is so light it can be picked up with two fingers, according to Chris Knott, United Drones’ director of corporate development.
In addition to the unmanned aerial vehicles, United Drones will operate several unmanned ground vehicles, called Wraiths, at the convention. The Wraiths can travel up to 65 mph “and climb just about anything,” said Winter.
The Wraiths, also built by United Drones, have the capability of carrying surveillance cameras and even lethal and non-lethal weapons.
“They are fully autonomous backup units,” Winter said of the Wraiths. “They are designed to follow certain agencies out into the field and, if they get into trouble, be activated by a command center and provide instant backup...”