TAMPA, Fla. – If you ever wanted a watchtower on your property, but not the unsightly building, AeroVironment, Inc., may have the answer for you.
A leader in unmanned aircraft systems, the company recently announced that its new tethered drone, named Tether Eye, may be soon available for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and security applications.
While neither a price nor release date has been set for military or private applications, the product could be popular in the survival market.
The drone is designed to provide continuous, 24-hour-a-day surveillance at up to 150 feet above its launch point. It deploys automatically from a small, weather-sealed, self-contained base station and ascends to a pre-determined hover altitude from where viewers can take advantage of its 360-degree field-of-view video feed.
The specially designed and ruggedized tether connecting Tether Eye to its base station provides continuous power and enables uninterrupted long-term operation.
While product dimensions are not yet available, if the Tether Eye compares to the company’s other drones, this product should be very portable with a small footprint. The Qube is AeroVironment’s commercially available drone that measures 3 feet, and weighs 5 pounds. The Shrike, a military drone, weighs just over 5 pounds and looks to measure about 3 feet (the company never divulges this drone’s dimensions on the website). The Shrike is also extremely stealthy. The company claims it is inaudible at 600 feet, and undetectable from 1,000 feet.
If Tether Eye features any of the stealth qualities of the Shrike, it could be an incredible guardian for any property.
The U.S. Combatting Terrorism Technical Support Office, which funded the development program under a government contract, is evaluating the product.
“Having the ability to deploy a ‘virtual observation tower’ at a moment’s notice above buildings and vehicles represents a game-changing capability for ISR and security operations that has the potential to save lives,” said Amanda Toman, CTTSO program manager. “We look forward to continuing our evaluation of Tether Eye’s capabilities with AeroVironment as a possible deployable capability across government facilities.”
Current Tether Eye payloads include electro-optical and infrared cameras and an encrypted digital data link. The EO/IR camera provides both day and night imagery with full motion video transmitted directly to a ground control station that operates each platform within the company’s family of small UAS and tactical missile systems.
The digital data link, integrated into each of AeroVironment’s platforms, provides secure communication with the unmanned aircraft system and communications relay with other platforms.
“Tether Eye effectively complements our family of small unmanned aircraft systems by providing a valuable new capability – continuous ISR and security for buildings or stationary vehicles in defense, security and commercial applications,” said Kirk Flittie, AeroVironment vice president and general manager of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems business segment. “We intend to continue developing Tether Eye through to production and include it as a standard component of our product portfolio. Close communication with our initial customers will guide and inform future enhancements and production releases, resulting in another effective AeroVironment solution that helps our customers succeed.”