"Look! Up in the air! It's kite! It's a balloon!"
"No! It's a tethered drone!"
I'm a real airy person by nature (Libra, astrologically speaking, which is like the air-est of air signs), so I'm kind of drawn to the idea of a "grounded" drone. Writer Hope Reese just published a new article with our friends Tech Republic about this new drone being developed by the same female visionary who started iRobot (who brought us the Roomba, the robotic floor cleaner). Helen Greiner's new company, CyPhy Works have been working on creating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) since they were founded in 2008.
Aside from just making people like me feel more secure and grounded, there are some practical uses and benefits to having a "tether" connecting your drone with it's "control base". Significantly, there is power coming through the microfilament (that CyPhy Works call "superfine") so the drone can maintain an aerial position indefinitely rather than needing to return to earth for recharging.
It's also rather obvious and certainly significant to note that having data travel through a physical medium greatly increases the security of that data. Due to the strong potential for military applications for these tethered drones, the US Army's Red Team actually tested this by trying (and failing) to intercept transmissions. Coming through a physical medium, the data transfer speed is also increased. CyPhy Works say that the "superfine" microfilament is "impervious to jamming and unaffected by water, power lines, and other possible interferences."
A couple of potential use cases Hope Reese mentions are security for a construction site or surveillance of a hostage situation. Sports event coverage. I could also imagine a drone hovering above a large outdoor club or restaurant and sending promotional streams of the event to a website or giant screen. As someone who gets annoyed with constantly having to charge or replace batteries, I could even imagine small consumer drones offering both tethered and non-tethered options. This could be a cool thing, maybe for people who are into fishing.
Google? Yup! Look at this. This dude actually caught a fish with his drone. What a trip. Here's an interesting factor. In this article from Wired Magazine, they share the idea that having a "leash" on a drone can actually make it a little less creepy.
I think it's also really cool that Helen Greiner's initial inspiration for getting into robotics was R2D2, who you might remember from an old movie called Star Wars.