It's Time To Get Yourself A Tethered Drone

The Long March
U.S. Marine Cpl.Dmitry Kavaliou th 60mm mortars section leader with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division shows a tethered reconnaissance Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) during Urban Advanced Naval Technology Exercises 2018 (ANTX18) at Camp Pendleton, California, March 20, 2018
U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Cutler Brice)

Imagine a drone connected to a mobile ground station by a powered tether similar to a dog on a leash. The ground station would be able to feed the drone (via the tether) electricity and water while also providing its user with persistent surveillance. This type of drone currently exists and could provide the U.S. military, the U.S. Border Patrol, first responders, and others with significant improvements.

Dr. Sergei Lupashin was the individual to get this technology moving. During a demo in a basement of New York University in 2013, he attached a dog leash to an aerial drone. This led to companies such as CyPhy, Fotokite, Aerones, and others to start developing tethered drone technology.

Tethered drones offer the unique ability of nearly unlimited flight time, but more importantly, it offers a more cost-effective way to use drone technology. Tethered drones are powered from the ground while sensors and surveillance in the air leads to a wide variety of different payload options.

Here are four examples of who could use this technology.

  1. The U.S. military could use tethered drones to improve security, provide persistent surveillance, improve communication, and boost operational reach as a portable and rapidly deployable asset. Essentially, a tethered drone would be a cost-effective force multiplier for the military.
  2. Similar to the military, a tethered drone could greatly assist the U.S. Border Patrol by providing persistent surveillance, better communication, and moving target tracking for securing the border. Tethered drones would be able to safely spot illegal immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in both the day and night.
  3. Firefighters and police officers would be ideal users of this technology. In fact, the New York City Fire Department has used this technology to monitor and identify the most beneficial entry and exit points during an emergency response in Brooklyn. This type of technology would provide an innovative way to fight fires. One such company, Aerones is developing a way to attach a firehose to its UAV. This would allow first responders an increased reach more than ten times that of a traditional ladder found on an emergency vehicle.
  4. For those not aware of DSCA, it is the process by which U.S. military forces and assets can be used to carry out missions with civil authorities. Missions include disaster recovery, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, etc. Tethered drones could greatly assist the U.S. military during DSCA operations through improved surveillance capabilities, greater operational reach and communication, and other improvements such as those discussed in the first responders discussion.

Although this technology could provide significant improvements in nearly every industry, just as with any new technology, there are downsides and disadvantages. For example, even though tethered drones could improve operational reach in the U.S. military, it lacks in maneuverability as the length of the tether is limited when compared to a traditional drone not tethered to a ground source. Another downside or disadvantage is that (although highly mobile) an enemy could capture the drone by simply capturing its ground source. This could be a significant issue depending on what type of data is stored in the drone.

If the U.S. military were to use this technology then it might find a highly mobile and cost-effective alternative to traditional and expensive drones. As discussed in Understanding Drones, large military drone systems, such as the Global Hawk costs approximately $30,000 per flight hour. Tethered drones offered by companies such as Fotokite offer tethered drone technology under $300 for its most cost-effective drone – as discussed in “Fotokite’s foldable, tethered Phi flying camera arrives for $249.”

Lastly, if the U.S. military were to use this technology, then they would have to identify a way for the drone to release the tether if an enemy were to attempt to capture its ground source. Although this is a concern, it should be easy to identify a solution.

Maj. Jamie Schwandt, USAR, is a logistics officer who has served as an operations officer, planner and commander. He holds a doctorate from Kansas State University. This article represents his own personal views, which are not necessarily those of the Department of the Army.

(Associated Press photo)

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed confidence on Sunday in the U.S. military justice system's ability to hold troops to account, two days after President Donald Trump pardoned two Army officers accused of war crimes in Afghanistan.

Trump also restored the rank of a Navy SEAL platoon commander who was demoted for actions in Iraq.

Asked how he would reassure countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of the pardons, Esper said: "We have a very effective military justice system."

"I have great faith in the military justice system," Esper told reporters during a trip to Bangkok, in his first remarks about the issue since Trump issued the pardons.

Read More Show Less

On a military base, a black flag is bad news. That means it's too hot outside to do anything strenuous, so training and missions are put off until conditions improve.

As the climate changes, there could be plenty more black flag days ahead, especially in Florida, a new analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists found. America's military bases could see an average of an extra month of dangerously hot days by mid-century. In Florida, they could quadruple.

Pentagon data shows heat-related illnesses and injuries are on the rise in every branch of the military. Last year, nearly 2,800 troops suffered heatstroke or heat exhaustion, a roughly 50 percent jump from 2014.

"I think most of us, if we hear there are tens of thousands of cases of heat stress in our troops every year, our minds would go to where they were deployed," said Kristy Dahl, a senior climate scientist at UCS and the lead author of the study. "But more than 90% of the military cases of heatstroke happened right here at home."

Read More Show Less
In this March 12, 2016, file photo, Marines of the U.S., left, and South Korea, wearing blue headbands on their helmets, take positions after landing on a beach during the joint military combined amphibious exercise, called Ssangyong, part of the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military exercises, in Pohang, South Korea. (Associated Press/Yonhap/Kim Jun-bum)

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The United States and South Korea said on Sunday they will postpone upcoming military drills in an effort to bolster a stalled peace push with North Korea, even as Washington denied the move amounted to another concession to Pyongyang.

The drills, known as the Combined Flying Training Event, would have simulated air combat scenarios and involved an undisclosed number of warplanes from both the United States and South Korea.

Read More Show Less

An opening ceremony will be held Monday on Hawaii island for a military exercise with China that will involve about 100 People's Liberation Army soldiers training alongside U.S. Army counterparts.

This comes after Adm. Phil Davidson, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, spoke on Veterans Day at Punchbowl cemetery about the "rules-based international order" that followed U.S. victory in the Pacific in World War II, and China's attempts to usurp it.

Those American standards "are even more important today," Davidson said, "as malicious actors like the Communist Party of China seek to redefine the international order through corruption, malign cyber activities, intellectual property theft, restriction of individual liberties, military coercion and the direct attempts to override other nations' sovereignty."

Read More Show Less

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to "act quickly" to reach a deal with the United States, in a tweet weighing in on North Korea's criticism of his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump, who has met Kim three times since 2018 over ending the North's missile and nuclear programs, addressed Kim directly, referring to the one-party state's ruler as "Mr. Chairman".

In his tweet, Trump told Kim, "You should act quickly, get the deal done," and hinted at a further meeting, signing off "See you soon!"

Read More Show Less