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National Politics

Agencies: Drones won't fly at RNC

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 01:05 AM
TAMPA -

Military and law enforcement officials, responding to a story in Friday's Tampa Tribune, said they have no plans to use unmanned aerial or ground vehicles during the Republican National Convention.

"None of the 60 local, state or federal agencies involved in the security operation of the Republican National Convention will utilize air or ground drones," said Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy. "They were never part of the planning process and they will not be utilized during the event, anywhere."

"The Secret Service is not aware of any drones being used in the implementation of the security plan for the national special security event,'' said spokesman George Ogilvie.

The denials came after the Tribune published a story quoting officials with a Naples-based drone company, United Drones, saying they would be operating unmanned vehicles in the air and on the ground at the convention.

Curt Winter, an engineer with United Drones, had said the company was bringing drones to Tampa and would operate them during the convention. He said United Drones had obtained an FAA waiver to fly the vehicles during the convention and had a contract with a government agency whose name he would not disclose.

Friday morning, Winter said he "misspoke" about obtaining an FAA waiver for the convention, but the company was waiting for Federal Aviation Administration authorization to fly its Aether Aero, an eight-bladed "vertical take-off aerial platform" that can fly up to 4,000 feet high.

The FAA said Friday said no one has requested a waiver to fly drones during the event. Military officials also said they have no plans to use drones.

Chris Knott, director of corporate development for United Drones, said Friday the company has an agreement with a "private entity'' for use of its drones during the convention. He would not disclose what entity or when or if the drones would operate. By afternoon, the company quit responding to phone calls or emailed questions.

"I am telling you, we will be present" during the convention," he said. "I am not going to talk to you about the level of operational commitment."


haltman@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7629

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