Tethered Drones Offer Longer Flight Times and Better Control

Since most UAVs are limited by short battery lives and face the possibility of flying into other aircraft, some companies have introduced tethered drones that are connected to the ground by ultrastrong, lightweight cables. These drones offer longer flight times, more control, and faster data transmission. Several industries have plans for these drones: CNN plans to use them for news coverage, the military for surveillance, and industries such as construction and agriculture for data gathering on their operations.

The Wall Street Journal reports that battery life is one of the biggest limitations for drones, since free-flying commercial drones can only stay aloft for around 20 minutes. Tethered drones, meanwhile, can fly for days and function at the same height. However, potential downsides include restricted mobility, potential tangles, and the need for more infrastucture on the ground.


“It’s like having a near-Earth satellite,” suggests Helen Greiner, chief exec of tethered drone maker CyPhy Works (and co-creator of the Roomba). “Once you have an eye in the sky all the time, there are so many things you can do with it.”

Pictured above is CyPhy’s Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications (PARC) vehicle system. Featuring the company’s patented microfilament system, “the PARC is capable of aerial coverage and true HD footage for as long as you decide.”

CNN has asked the FAA to allow the organization to use tethered drones from CyPhy Works and Florida-based Drone Aviation Holding Corp. for gathering news. However, the FAA considers the tethered drones the same as their flying counterparts, and is enforcing the same guidelines.

“There is hope for the news channel’s drone plans,” explains WSJ. “As part of a test program, the FAA plans to let CNN use drones, including tethered ones, in urban areas. CNN believes tethered drones could help it cover certain large events, like protests, election-night parties and the next presidential inauguration.”

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