Tethered Drone & What You Need To Know

By Hal Simmons •  Updated: 07/20/20 •  6 min read

A tethered drone is known as a Professional Unmanned Aerial System (PUAS). They have a wide spectrum of capabilities and are a valuable tool for professions spanning across numerous industries. One of their many uses is to provide real-time feedback and security for border patrol. Without a tether, the video signal could be lost at any moment, or the battery could die. Military and law enforcement have used them for years, but now they are hitting the commercial market. What’s the difference between a tethered drone and a non-tethered drone, though? Continue reading to find out.

What is a tethered drone? It is a drone that is connected to a power cord which is attached to a station on the ground. You can turn nearly any drone model into a tethered one. Once you have hooked the drone up to the tether, you can then enjoy unlimited flight and streaming time. You also don’t have to be as cautious during flight because your drone is less likely to get away from you.

When it comes to working with these drones, certain companies stand out more than others. There are also certain benefits to flying a tethered over non-tethered. Let me explain.

What Is a Tethered Drone?

There are actually two variations these drones:

Those that are connected to a hardware tether and those that are connected via fishing line.

That’s right, for a standard drone to be considered a tethered drone, all it needs is some fishing line anchoring it to a station on the ground. If you ever run into any FAA regulations that prevent you from flying where and when you like, tethering your drone could make all the difference.

The other type of tether drone is called a programmed drone, and it uses a specialized hardware tether. This type of tether supplies the drone with a direct line of power throughout its flight. Drones like this can fly for an unlimited amount of time without worrying about the battery dying or losing its video signal.

The programmed drones’ tether cable also contains thin and lightweight conductors. These conductors reduce wind drag, which allows the drone to fly at higher altitudes than other drones.

What Is the Power Station?

Perhaps the most important part of every hardware tethered drone is the power station located on the ground. The power station, which is also known as a drone station or tether station, converts AC electricity into DC. The drone is equipped with a AC-DC converter to power things on the aircraft that don’t require as much voltage, like the camera system.

For those that are wondering whether tethered drones can extract and retract the tether, the answer is yes. The drones that are equipped with a winch system.

In other words, the programmed tether drone seemingly has it all. Something of this caliber really only leaves one thing up for question:

How much does it cost?

The price range of tethered drones with a hardware tether varies tremendously. The biggest deciding factor on price is whether or not you decide to build the drone yourself. Building a drone yourself usually takes a big chunk off the price. Regardless, you are looking at a drone that will cost you tens of thousands of dollars.

A drone that you build yourself can cost you anywhere from $2,000.00 to $50,000.00, and this is without including the drone or grounding station in the price. A complete ready-made system tethered drone, however, typically runs anywhere from $20,000.00 to $125,000.00.

It might be true that these drones are finally hitting the commercial market, but they are nothing shy of a “pretty penny.”

The 3 Best Tethered Drone Companies

If the price hasn’t yet deterred you, then chances are you need to know which companies make the best tethered drones on the market. Below is a list of the companies worth considering before taking the plunge and purchasing your first tethered drone.

Based in France and the U.S. and founded in 2014. They supply integrated systems as well as DIY drones, which is one reason why they are the market leader. Not to mention the numerous different awards they’ve won over the past six years.
Hoverfly Technologies:
Based in Florida and founded in 2010. They have a long history of being first-to-market for their technologies. This includes the first power-tether kit, tether-powered sUAS, and first optional tether-powered free-flying aircraft called the BigSky.
Drone Aviation Corporation:
Based in Florida and founded in 2014. They serve security customers as well as national defense customers for the use of their drones in communications and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance or ISR. They design, develop, and market their specialized platforms to cater specifically to this type of customer.

The Benefits of Using A Tether

Something else to consider before purchasing a tethered drone is the benefits associated with them. First, you must assess your personal needs and discover why you want or need to purchase this specific type of drone. When you learn about the benefits of using a tethered drone, it inevitably helps with this decision.

Some benefits of using a tethered drone are:

Continuous power
You can remain in flight for hours at a time
Continuous streaming
A tether keeps you secure and continuous with your video feed without loss of signal
Using a tether means your data is secure from interference
Overt Deterrent
Tethered drones are a great surveillance deterrent
A tethered drone is tremendously more reliable than any alternative

Tethered drones may have been notoriously used for military and law enforcement purposes in the past, but they are slowly making their way into the commercial marketplace. Before purchasing yours, it is always good to have a little knowledge of the leading brands and price points for various options.

When it comes to a tethered drone with an integrated system, there aren’t many isadvantages. All in all, if you are looking for a drone with extended flight time and guaranteed streaming and security, then a tethered drone is the best option for you.

Hal Simmons

When I first started flying drones I was always afraid of damaging my drone. I would always be thinking what if. I questioned myself often and as a result it made me question various aspects of flying drones. In the process I learned a lot. This is why I feel I have a lot of information that will be helpful to beginners and intermediate drone enthusiasts. Of course I still have a lot to learn so join me on this journey and I am sure you will enjoy the adventure ahead of us.