Applications of tethered drones in oil & gas, law enforcement

Applications of tethered drones in oil & gas, law enforcement
Tethered drones differ from typical drones in many ways. The biggest difference is it’s tied to a fixed or mobile unit down below where the drone gets its power, allowing it to stay in the air for a longer period of time. Applications range from inspecting flare towers at oil and gas refineries to surveying public areas by law enforcement agencies.
 
Compared to typical drones, a tethered drone offers various benefits. “The tether system on the drone will provide power and data connectivity to both the drone and its payloads. The data connectivity on the smart tether enables bidirectional 10 Gbps throughput on multiple channels in a single fiber and in-fed power via the same smart tether system to the drone enables up to 22 days of flying time,” said W. M. Leong, CEO of ProNetwork. “When in tethered mode the drone will be unhackable.”
 
Vertical markets that can benefit from this technology include energy, oil and gas as well as law enforcement. “For the energy sector, electrical pylon (or electrical tower) inspections where thermal and corona cameras can be used for problem identification can benefit from tethered drones. For oil and gas, flare towers can be inspected for durations longer than battery powered drones. Inspection of flare towers must be conducted efficiently and optimally within a fixed timeframe,” Leong said.
 
Another application of tethered drones is surveillance by law enforcement agencies. “Tethered drones can be deployed by either from a stationary position or a moving vehicle at a 30-degree offset to the host platform,” he said. “Payloads that can be mounted consist of but not limited to 30x zoom video cameras, Infra-red cameras for low light, thermal imaging cameras, laser measurement sensors, facial recognition cameras and many more.”
 
In telecommunications, the tethered drone technology enables the continuity of cellular service in disaster or emergency scenarios in the capacity of an instant tower. “Tethered drones can carry antennas arrays, can be deployed quickly from small spaces and can fly up to 122 meters above fixed sites or moving vehicles for days at a time without landing,” Leong said.
 
According to Leong, a tethered drone system includes many components. With a base power unit for power supply, flying time can be extended far beyond the limitations of current drone batteries, he said, adding that an automated tether management system is used to manage the tension of the tether reel which removes the risk of the drone getting tangled with the tether itself and allows drone flight at a 30-degree offset from the host platform.
 
Further, Leong said tethers can be designed and produced for any length with current commercially available lengths at up to 122 meters to cater to civil aviation requirements of most countries for drone flight. The ground control station allows for command and control of the drone and if necessary its payloads.
 
To operate the system, necessary training and knowledge are required, Leong said. “Ensure the pilot has the right qualifications and received the appropriate training to operate the equipment. Competent use of the equipment allows for maximum benefit of the tethered drone system,” he advised.


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