Tethered drones can spy indefinitely

Posted by Shane McGlaun

Typically, when we talk about unmanned aerial vehicles and drones, we're referring to large platforms or systems that are designed to fly through the skies while being controlled from hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

These large aerial vehicles are often equipped with weapons for directly attacking enemy targets. However, smaller unmanned aerial vehicles capable of flying through a home or hovering in place are far more suitable for assisting US troops engaged in urban warfare. 

That is why CyPhy Works, a new venture by one of the founders of iRobot, has created two new drones. Now iRobot already produces several robotic systems that the military uses for dangerous tasks such as bomb disposal. But CyPhy Works has moved on to a different track, building a pair of flying drones designed specifically for surveillance.

The first drone - dubbed Ease - is a foot in diameter and stands 16 inches tall. This unmanned flying vehicle is designed to fly in very tight spaces and navigates easily through open windows and open doors. The small drone uses ducted rotors for propulsion and is equipped with an integrated HD cameras along with a thermal imaging device.

Ease can also be stationed indefinitely at a particular location thanks to a thin wire filament that trails behind it providing power. Having the juice to skulk about the hallways of a building indefinitely is a big deal. Another aspect of that trailing wire just as important is that signals can't be interrupted or interfered with as long as the wire remains intact.

The second flying drone is a quad rotor system known as Parc. This particular drone is designed to operate at significantly higher altitudes than the Ease. Parc boasts a maximum altitude of 1,000 feet and uses a tether - allowing it to stay aloft for 12 hours on a single ground station battery. The drone is loaded with integrated HD cameras, night vision capability and integrated thermal cameras.