Boston Marathon Ramps Up Security with Drones

Tethered drones along historic 26.2-mile Boston Marathon course will provide additional security, along with thousands of state troopers, emergency personnel and volunteers.

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Boston Marathon officials will rely on tethered drones for the first time as part of an enhanced security plan.

In an example of the burgeoning use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for security applications, a pair of camera-equipped tethered drones will be deployed at the Boston Marathon on Monday in an effort to safeguard runners and spectators.

The goal is to scan the crowds and detect threats with some of the most agile technology available, reports wwlp.com.

The drones can rise to about 400 meters and capture live video feeds of the scene below, which operators at a control center will use to monitor the crowd. Operators can zoom in, zoom out and replay video.

The drones are built by Danvers, Mass.-based CyPhy Works. The service on race day will be provided at no cost, according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA).

One of the devices will be deployed by the starting line, where many of the roughly 1 million spectators are expected to watch the race. The other drone will monitor the Athletes’ Village located at Hopkinton High School, where an expected 30,000 runners will warm up before the 121st edition of the oldest annual race of its kind.

This year’s event marks the first time MEMA will deploy a drone for added security.

“Just the scale of the operation is so much larger that the exercises themselves become so much more complex,” said MEMA director Kurt Schwartz via wwlp.com

Perry Stoll of Cyphy Works told wwlp.com the Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance Communications (PARC) drones can remain in the air for the entire marathon. “So it gives them a view that they don’t get in any other way, to be able to be up at 400 feet,” he said.

The drones are tethered to a power box that provides power and communication feeding back real-time video to the security personnel on the ground. The devices are said to be able to see about a mile and a half out and can zoom in to a moving target while following it.

The drones will provide additional security to the 8,000 MEMA personnel, 10,000 Boston Athletic Association volunteers and thousands of state police troopers.

This year’s Boston Marathon marks the four-year anniversary of the deadly bombings in 2013.