Keeping Drones — and Safety Concerns — Tethered

As news organizations eye the use of drones to capture video, one of the major concerns about the proposed Federal Aviation Administration regulations for their commercial use has been restrictions on flying small, unmanned aerial vehicles (sUAVs) over crowds.

Currently, the FAA is proposing that sUAV operators be required to keep the vehicle within their line of sight, which could prohibit drone flight over people who are not members of the operator’s crew.

One potential solution was on display last week during the July 17 “Let’s Fly Wisely” event at the FAA-approved drone testing and training facility at Virginia Tech University.

Seespan Aerial Interactive displayed a tethered drone system that could help ease some of the safety concerns that prompted the FAA’s proposed restrictions.

Mark Ryan, Seespan founder and CEO, noted the company’s system uses drones built by 3D Robotics that are equipped with a Sony lightweight 4K camera. The drone has an on-board device that is tethered via high-strength deep-sea fishing line to a base station to control the drone. The system is mobile and can be attached to an SUV or other vehicle.

“You can fly the bird as you would any other bird, but if you run into a problem like losing the communications link or bad weather, you can retrieve it quickly and pull it back from any direction,” Ryan said. “This addresses the issue of how the news media can safely fly these birds near the public. We’ve asked the FAA for permission to fly them much closer to the public than any of the other drone systems on the market.”