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MacDill AFB officials throw 'Drone Rodeo' in Ybor City

Event encourages collaboration among inventors
Posted at 6:42 PM, Nov 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-01 18:42:10-04

The potential future of our nation's security is on display right now in Tampa.

It's called a "Drone Rodeo."

It's not open to the public, but the three-day event is bringing together inventors with members of the military in an attempt to more rapidly advance drone technology, but in the sky and on land.

ABC Action News was granted access to some of the presentations today to explain to the public the work being done and how important it is to the military and the general public.

One drone by the company Shield AI can find its own way through an obstacle course of turns and barriers all while mapping the inside of a building.

Another drone can change its own battery, and even carry around and drop another land-based drone.

All tools that could be especially useful to the military.

"For Special Ops missions that's incredibly important," says James Geurts, the executive of acquisitions at U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) based at the MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

Geurts encouraged the creation of the session in what he hopes will be a series of "rapid prototyping" events.

"When you have complex issues the best way to solve it is to get folks together working together to solve those problems," Geurts tells ABC Action News, saying he wanted to find a way to get inventors and entrepreneurs to better collaborate with military personnel so better tolls can be created for specific challenges in battle.

"If we can build a device that can help our war fighters, save lives, help them do their jobs better and a lot safer I think there's no better honor for a company like Ghost Robotics," says Jiren Parikh, one of over 20 inventors showing off their drones at the event. 

Ghost Robotics has created a legged-robot with impressive, almost human-like ability. 

"The most important objective of a legged robot is the ability to go on unstructured terrain," explains Parikh. "Walk stairs. Over rock fields. In mountainous terrain. Through tunnels. Through mudfields."

The event is being held at SOFWERX, a Department of Defense funded work and meeting space at a newly refurbished warehouse in Ybor City.

The location is well suited, says Geurts, in part because of its proximity to the MacDill AFB.