The Republican National Convention in Tampa will be the first national political convention to be surveilled by unmanned drones, from the air and on the ground.

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 [...]

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.

I’d give it five years before the wall-walkers and the unmanned planes will be commonplace additions at almost all large gatherings in this country. Maybe they can combine the drones with the Goodyear blimp, to provide detailed, comprehensive surveillance and tire advertising.

The story does read like public relations material for the drone industry, so a side benefit of deploying these at the RNC is to show off the technology to the people who will approve their inclusion in future homeland security budgets. In fact, United Drones isn’t hiding that possibility:

The convention is a great chance to showcase what drones can do for both military and civilian uses, Knott said.

“They have a known and practical application with law enforcement and the military, but there are a number of other potential users: search and rescue, tracking algae blooms or oil spills, highway safety, wildlife migration,” Knott said.

They can do it all! They can serve you an ice-cream cone! Expect the Congressional Drone Caucus (there is one) to expand after United Drones shows off their talents next week.

Marcy Wheeler amusingly reminds Republican convention attendees that the government will mostly likely collect all that “incidental” intelligence that the drones happen to capture, meaning that all those strip club events and solicitations will be preserved on some database somewhere for posterity. Wouldn’t want to ruin the home life, RNC delegates!