French drone company Elistair has signed an agreement with the DGA – French Defense procurement Agency – to finance its AIRWATCH project, a tethered drone for surveillance and telecommunications.
The DGA will finance Elistair’s research and development in the AIRWATCH project through the RAPID program, supporting innovations with a strong potential for deployment in the industrial and defense sectors. DGA’s main objectives are to equip French military forces and to support the armament export industry: but eligible projects must be developed by independent companies and offer “dual applications for military and civilian markets,” says Elistair.
The AIRWATCH project will develop a smart “dronebox”: tethered drone for surveillance and telecommunications providing unlimited flight time thanks to its micro-tether providing continuous power from a ground station. The company calls AIRWATCH “a breakthrough innovation for civil and private security actors, surveillance and temporary telecommunications missions.”
“[The] AIRWATCH system provides a full day and night coverage of wide areas for hours. Comparable to a one hundred meters high “virtual mast”, the system offers a persistent aerial surveillance support for crisis management, firefighting, major events, video protection, law enforcement, or perimeters security,” says Elistair.
Tethered systems aren’t new; but the DGA investment makes clear that tethered or “persistent” drones offer significant advantages for law enforcement, military, or civilian security or surveillance applications. Tethers not only deal with the issue of flight endurance, but they also offer an efficient way of keeping a drone in a single location without risking flyaways. Tethers also allow for high speed data transfer.
Elistair’s tethered solution already boasts over 10,000 flight hours, with customers ranging from the U.S. Army to Paris Airports and France’s primary gas and electricity provider, Engie. The DGA’s investment in the AIRWATCH system should provide the funding and exposure that the company needs to make tethered drones a familiar site on industrial worksites.