Tethered drones have served a two-fold purpose. For starters, they could have a seemingly limitless supply of power, as a connection to the ground could eliminate the need for batteries to be recharged. But they also serve as a sort of security blanket for those afraid of flyaways. That tether also serves as a sort of leash, and it could prevent a drone from flying where it’s not supposed to and hurting someone.
But now, drones can fly for longer on battery power, providing sufficient power as-is for many use cases. Even the consumer-oriented DJI Mavic 3 offers an unprecedented 46 minutes of battery life. And flyaways are becoming increasingly less common while faith in drones flying over people is growing. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration this year announced its Operations Over People and at Night rule which Part 107 remote pilots the ability to fly over people and moving vehicles, contingent upon “the level of risk” of the drone operation.
A tether might be less relevant than it once was.
So will the tethered drone market grow or shrink in 2022? It turns out that the tethered drone market is expected to grow. The tethered drones market is expected to reach approximately $557 million by the end of 2023, which would mark a compound annual growth rate of approximately 40% between 2018 and 2023. That’s according to a 2021 report from Market Research Future.
The companies building tethered drones that you should know
Among the leaders in the tethered drone market include U.S.-based Hoverfly, which was founded in 2010 and is known for building the first tethered-power drone called the LiveSky, as well as the first optionally tether-powered free-flying drone called the BigSky. It’s also built the first power-tether kit for consumer drones and is the only company in the USA that produces a drone approved by the FAA for flights in Class B airspace.
And now, even more American drone companies are trying to get a bigger bite out of the tethered drone pie. Brooklyn, New York-based drone maker Easy Aerial this month launched its next-generation Easy Compact Tether System, nicknamed ECTS. That drone system joins the company’s portfolio of Smart Aerial Monitoring Systems. And with this new addition comes a more lightweight, easy-to-transport autonomous tethered and optionally tethered drone solution. Though, lightweight is relative, as it still weights 40 lbs and is 2-feet at its widest.
Easy Aerial’s products are designed primarily as surveillance tools for commercial, government, and military applications. This solution can carry payloads including multiple HD and thermal cameras, sensors, lights, communications, lidar, and other electronic options. And fittingly, all Easy Aerial systems are NDAA Sec. 848 compliant and built in the U.S. The company also participates in the DoD Defense Innovation Unit Blue sUAS 2.0 program.
The newly-launched ECTS offers either a 200ft or 330ft data-over-power (DOP) enhanced tether that can support 24 hours of continuous flight, even in extreme weather conditions. The company says it offers precise hovering over the ground station at speeds up to 25mph when deployed from a vehicle. It’s also compatible with Easy Aerial’s line of rugged, military-grade drones, including the agile Alpine Swift quadcopter or the versatile Albatross and Raptor hexacopters.
And perhaps the biggest name in enterprise drones, FLIR, is also quietly exploring tethered drones. FLIR is a sensor company. But sensors go with drones like pumpkin goes with pie crust, so FLIR has increasingly leaned into building drone products. And in 2019 — after tethered drone maker CyPhy Works shut down — FLIR bought up its assets and intellectual property.
“Tethered UAS systems are becoming an increasingly valuable tool for force protection, border security, and critical infrastructure protection,” said David Ray, president of FLIR’s Government and Defense business in a prepared statement at the time.