By: Jason Erickson, Tech Swarm |
Although drones have been all but welcomed into American skies by the U.S. government, the devil still remains in the details.
The proliferation of drones for hobby, commercial, or law enforcement has faced some significant setbacks, while still marching forward as though it’s inevitable that drones will be part of the future landscape in America.
There are several issues at play, especially when it comes to smaller drones such as the quadcopters that tend to be used most by hobbyists, journalists and local law enforcement. The primary issue is of course privacy, as it appears that even sunbathing 200 feet in the air on a wind turbine doesn’t guarantee a bit of seclusion these days. But, in tandem with that, is the idea that a remote-controlled device equipped with fast-spinning blades is becoming an increasing part of the public experience, which one man recently likened to a “flying lawnmower.”
One company believes they have found a solution that might work to help alleviate safety concerns: essentially putting drones on a leash.
The Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership at Virginia Tech will collaborate with Drone Aviation Holding Corp., a Jacksonville-based aviation company, to research, test, and advance the commercialization of the company’s tethered unmanned aircraft systems, also known as drones.
The organizations began test flights this month in Jacksonville, Florida, to explore the reliability, safety, and commercial-use cases for the company’s family of tethered drones, and ultimately report the results to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
“We are excited to demonstrate the advantages and many potential civil and commercial uses of our tethered drones,” said Jay Nussbaum, chairman of Drone Aviation Holding Corp. “This ongoing partnership will focus on evaluating the increased safety features and technical advantages of our tethered drones and sharing that data with the FAA for the potential commercial deployment of ‘WATT’ systems into the national airspace for first responders and commercial entities.”
The FAA selected the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership at Virginia Tech in December, 2013, as one of six national test sites to conduct research to integrate unmanned aircraft into the nation’s airspace. Since then, the partnership has worked with unmanned aircraft systems to aid emergency responders, survey energy pipeline infrastructure, study agricultural land, and teach reporters to cover news.
“At Virginia Tech, we see tremendous opportunity for tethered-drone technology because of its unique capabilities and safety profile, making it applicable to a large number of applications from news broadcasting to emergency response and facility security,” said Rose Mooney, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, headquartered at the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science at Virginia Tech. “We look forward to working with Drone Aviation Holding Corp., the FAA, and our consortium partners to explore the commercial application of this this novel UAS technology.”
The WATT-200 is designed to safely provide secure and reliable aerial monitoring for extended durations while being tethered to the ground via a high strength armored tether. Unlike hobbyist drones or manned aircraft, the WATT model delivers the long-flight duration and commercial grade, real-time video-monitoring capabilities day or night, the company said.
While it is commendable to look for solutions that will prevent the type of free-for-all that is developing in the small drone sector, the idea of tethered drones sounds like the possible establishment of fixed drone outposts. In a society that already is plagued by excessive surveillance, is this just one more step toward the expansion of an all-seeing eye?
Jason Erickson writes for TechSwarm