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Gyroplane to oversee venues

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In the interest of security during the Olympics, the Utah Olympic Safety Command is using a lot of equipment and techniques.

That includes the use of an unusual airborne vehicle - the Gyroplane - to oversee the venues.

The Hawk 4 Gyroplane is nicknamed 'Homeland Defender' for it's mission during the Olympics. This airplane-helicopter hybrid is propelled by a rear engine - not the topside rotor. That, and its design, allow it to manuver better almost anything in the air.

Pilot Jim Mayfield will be one of two pilots flying the gyroplane during the games. Onboard equipment - an infrared camera system, a search light, among others, will all be monitered by a member of the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command - UOPSC. Mayfield plans to take the plane anywhere UOPSC wants to go.

"Manuverable near to the ground, slowly, which makes it the ideal observation platform for UOPSC," Mayfield said.

During the Olympics, riots or terrorists won't be the only worries. The versatility of the Hawk-4 will make it useful in a variety of situations.

"If we have traffic issues, if we have crowd issues, they can be up there observing those things and getting back to our command center to let them know what's going on," said Dave Tubbs, director of the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command.

For years, the Hawk-4 Gyroplane has been tested as a crop duster, passenger vehicle, and observation tool. Groen Brothers Aviation hasn't found a big market for the vehicle - yet. It's high-visability Olympic job could change that.

David Groen/Groen Brothers Aviation: "It gives us a real mission to perform," said David Groen of Groen Brothers Aviation. "It's a critical mission. It's a mission to mitigate what is a credible threat to the Olympics."

The Hawk-4 doesn't hover, but it can travel up to 150 miles per hour, fly low, and turn quickly. Special equipment will make it useful both day and night during the Winter Games.

Because it is so manuverable, the gyroplane's strength is ground observation from above. But this vehicle still has to be FAA certified, so don't expect any joyrides any time soon.

The gyroplane will be used all through the games, including during opening and closing ceremonies.