Ybor City warehouse serves as military drone test site

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You won't find another place in the country like the 8,000 square foot Thunderdrone room inside the SOFWERX center in Ybor City.

It's where technology innovators and military minds come together to create the future tools of warfighters.

"Here's one place everybody can get together and bring problems to the table, bring solutions and create really interesting results," said James Geurts, Acquisition Executive for U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

Geurts helped create the SOFWERX facility to help bridge the gap between creators and warriors. He said the military is constantly in search of the latest technology for battle, but it often took years to get a product they could use.

"What we were missing at Special Operations Command is a way for us to make it easy for people with ideas, the community, students, to help us solve problems," said Geurts.

On Wednesday, drone developers debuted products they created based on feedback from military officials at an expo a few months prior.

Creators put their drones to the test to showcase their skills.

The company Shield AI demonstrated how its drone is able to navigate through rooms and identify people and glass windows, both in the light and in the dark. The drone is also capable of mapping and remembering its path.

The audience of creators, military officials, and local law enforcement also got to witness a robot, created by Ghost Robotics, in action as it walked and jumped with its spider-like legs across the room.

"The most important objective of a legged robot is the ability to go on unstructured terrain, walk stairs, over rock fields, in mountainous terrain," explained Jiren Parikh, President of Ghost Robotics.

He said the robot could one day be used to navigate through areas unsafe for soldiers to walk.

A product created by DroneHome was designed to recognize when its battery is low and fly back to its home base to change to a freshly charged battery, taking out the need for human manipulation.

From Wednesday through Friday, creators will demonstrate more than 30 new drones and take feedback from military officials to better their products.

"If we can build a device that can help our warfighters save lives, help them do their job a lot better and do it a lot safer, I think there's no better honor for a company," said Parikh.