The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that it will use a tethered drone to perform surveillance over the Trump National Golf Course in New Jersey, during the President’s vacation this month.
“The Proof of Concept will help determine the potential future use of tethered sUAS in supporting the Agency’s protective mission,” says the Department statement. A manufacturer was not named in the statement, although MA-based CyPhy Works is the industry leader in tethered drone technology. CyPhy Works drones have been used at the Boston Marathon and other major events to provide security in crowded areas. Tethered drones can stay in one place, and fly continuously.
“The tethered sUAS used in the Proof of Concept is operated using a microfilament tether that provides power to the aircraft and the secure video from the aircraft to the Operator Control Unit (OCU),” says the DHS. “The sUAS is equipped with electro-optical (EO) and infrared (IR) camera.”
Flown between 300-400 feet altitude, tethered drones can not only get a birds’ eye view of a crowd but can zoom in on individual cars or people. The tethered drone is controlled from a laptop and flies autonomously, allowing the operator to focus on controlling the cameras. The camera transmits images through the tether back to the laptop using an encrypted feed.
As part of the proof of concept, the DHS Secret Service is conducting a “privacy impact assessment (PIA) to evaluate the privacy risks associated with tethered sUAS’s surveillance and image capturing capabilities.” In accordance with the PIA, surrounding residents and other people who may be in the range of the drone have been notified, and protocols are in place to secure and destroy the data after the test.
If the test proves successful, tethered drones may be used regularly to provide security – or a unique and precise analysis of the president’s golf swing.