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Howard Altman | The Tampa Tribune

Several unmanned ground vehicles called Wraiths will be deployed at the convention.

TAMPA –Security-conscious authorities will be using a wide 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 41/2-foot-wide Aether Aero, which resembles a small helicopter, can fly up to 4,000 feet high and, with a specially built battery, can operate up to four hours at a time, 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. Read More

Leonora LaPeter Anton | Tampa Bay Times


Pinellas sheriff’s Deputy Ed Diluzio asks CodePink and St. Pete for Peace protesters to move off private property in Largo.

LARGO — Seventy-five protesters, many dressed in pink, gathered outside the local production plant of Raytheon on Thursday, denouncing the defense contractor for its role in drone warfare.

The demonstration, organized by the groups CodePink and St. Pete for Peace, marked the unofficial start of protests surrounding the Republican National Convention, set to kick off Monday in Tampa.

“Raytheon, shame on you,” they chanted. “Children die because of you.”

The director of the Young-Rainey Star Center was not happy to see a collection of elaborately costumed demonstrators — a Grim Reaper and a carrot-shaped helicopter among them — congregating in his parking lot.

“The right of way is over there,” Paul Sacco said. The property is owned by the Pinellas County Industrial Development Authority.

“I’m very confused,” said Tighe Barry, dressed in pink and a straw hat with a Hello Kitty ribbon. “It seems to me this is county land. I have a First Amendment right to be here.” Read More

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