1. Military

SOCom is asking to see all kinds of drones, some for delivering blood to the battlefield

Photo by Brent Thacker, U.S. Army Soldiers from Fort Benning, Ga., learn to use the PD-100 Black Hornet nano drone during a training session in Kuwait.
Published Sep. 3, 2018

On a far-flung battlefield, 100 miles from the nearest treatment center, a Navy corpsman signals for a small drone to bring life-saving blood to a wounded commando.

Meanwhile, a tiny drone shaped like a bug spies on enemy leaders. Another small drone swoops in to broadcast messages, in local languages and dialects, explaining why Navy SEALS are there. Elsewhere, swarms of drones, aided by artificial intelligence, challenge enemy forces jamming signals.

Welcome to the future of special operations warfare.

These technologies aren't yet in the hands of the military's commandos, but officials at U.S. Special Operations Command are eager to deliver them. That's why the command, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, is seeking help from academics, industry and individuals who may have designed drones that can meet its needs.

In a request for information issued last month, SOCom asked that they showcase their wares in November during a demonstration at the Avon Park Air Force Range straddling Polk and Highlands counties. Commandos will observe plans and, when possible, drone systems in action. Later, the command might collaborate on further development.

SOCom officials could not be reached for comment, but Skip Parish, a Sarasota-based drone inventor, said the military is facing a drone arms race and Russia is a competitor.

Artificial intelligence with swarm networking on self-operated devices "are positioned to win wars," Parish said. "The race is on to bring this technology to the battlefield and Mr. Putin is betting his army's success in any potential engagement on it."

Tampa drone expert Randy Goers called the SOCom request a "step in the right direction" that will benefit troops in the field and, down the line, civilians in distress.

Goers, a Tampa city planner and host of the streaming Drone Radio Show, said that of all SOCom's drone requests, the blood delivery system and so-called nano drones stand out.

He said "the ability to get fresh blood sources into the field where people need them is really critical and will increase the chances of survival."

But beyond helping the troops, drones can supply blood to hospitals under fire — like those in Syria — where troops can't respond, Goers said. The technology might also be used someday to deliver blood during humanitarian crises, like a hurricane or earthquake, he said.

SOCom is looking for drones that can deliver at least 10 pounds of blood, keep it at a constant chilled temperature, and fly up to 100 miles.

Nano drones, typically weighing about as much as a tennis ball, can capture day and night images, fly under their own control and maneuver indoors.

"Nano technology is the kind of thing we see in television and the movies," Goers said. "A little bug that flies around inside a place that can spy and collect information."

The military already uses some of them, like the PD-100 Black Hornet nano drone which weighs about as much as a compact disc and can fly as high as two miles.

Alan Taylor, president of the Sarasota-based Rapid Composites drone company, said he is interested in applying for the SOCom demonstration.

"Certainly some of this has been around for a while but the shift is to new, less expensive solutions," said Taylor, whose company has pitched its wares at the annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa each May. "We have numerous drones on their way to production that meet many of SOCom's desires already."

Those interested in demonstrating their drones have until Sept. 10 to contact SOCom at or (813) 826-4646. The demonstration is scheduled Nov. 5 and 9 at Avon Park.

Contact Howard Altman at or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman


  1. A Coast Guard rescue swimmer drops from a helicopter during a training exercise off Honeymoon Island State Park in 2012. Jim Damaske
    The bizarre threat and fakes calls for help are being transmitted over marine radio. It sounds like the same man, the Coast Guard said.
  2. MacDill Air Force Base will observe a full-day, "resilience tactical pause'' Friday to address a growing number of suicides in the Air Force. Airmen will participate in team-building activities and small-group discussions on mental health. This is happening at military bases across the U.S.  [Times files].
    An estimated 78 airmen nationwide have taken their lives this year, prompting leaders to boost prevention efforts
  3. Dr. Dominick Gulli and Tammy Alsing recently launched Cope Well Counseling Associates at 415 Lithia Pinecrest Rd. in Brandon. ERIC VICIAN   | Special to the Times
    Dr. Dominick Gulli and Tammy Alsing recently opened their office at 415 Lithia Pinecrest Rd.
  4. Researchers from Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa participated in a newly released study that links post-traumatic stress disorder to ovarian cancer risk.
    A researcher from Moffitt Cancer Center participated in the study, which found that those with six or more symptoms of PTSD had double the risk of getting the disease.
  5. Capt. Joseph McGilley, commanding officer of Air Station Clearwater, center, gives an update on Wednesday about the air station's work in the hurricane-ravaged Bahamas. He stands inside a hangar on the Air Station Clearwater property in front of a Sikorsky MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, the same type being used in search and rescue efforts in the Bahamas. [JOSH SOLOMON   |   Times] JOSH SOLOMON  |  Josh Solomon, Tampa Bay Times
    Cargo planes, helicopters and people are all part of the effort.
  6. KC-135 Stratotankers will be evacuated from MacDill Air Force Case to McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas ahead of Hurricane Dorian.  [Times]
    The aircraft are being sent to McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas as a precaution with high winds projected during the storm
  7. A bulldozer dumps a load of trash into a burn pit 300 yards from the runway at Afghanistan's Bagram Airfield in this 2012 photo. The Pentagon later built a trash disposal plant at the busy military base but a number of crude burn pits, still spewing toxic fumes, remain in operation. [Mark Rankin] HOWARD ALTMAN  |  Mark Rankin
    A number of veterans have been locked out of VA medical care and disability benefits for illnesses that often are terminal.
  8. Medal of Honor recipient Ryan Pitts, right, speaks while Clinic Director Karen Blanchette, left, Michael Sullivan, a Cohen Veterans Network Board Member, center, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, look on during a ceremony Monday marking the opening of the Florida Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Aspire Health Partners in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times] "OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES"  |  Times
    The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Aspire Health Partners will fill mental health service gaps for veterans and their family members.
  9. The Veterans Resurgence Program inside the Falkenburg Road Jail houses up to 60 veterans who can receive resources and counseling while serving time. Courtesy of Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office
    Sheriff Chad Chronister’s Veterans Resurgence Program offers resources, counseling to incarcerated vets
  10. Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater’s new commander, Capt. Joseph T. McGilley, left, watches as Clearwater Mayor George N. Cretekos reads a proclamation recognizing the U.S. Coast Guard’s contribution to the city at a recent  City Council meeting. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Jose Perez