Hybrid Tethered/Free-Flying Drone Takes Off

Easy Aerial, a provider of autonomous drone-based inspection, monitoring and surveillance solutions, has developed what it says is the first hybrid tethered/free-flying drone-in-a-box system that can be remotely deployed. To date, the Brooklyn-based company has sold a dozen of its Raptor systems to military and commercial clients, which deploy them for surveillance and reconnaissance.

Launched earlier this year, the Raptor quadcopter operates in tethered mode for surveillance, providing continuous data and video feed to operators. During flight, the 12-pound drone can then release its tether and continue on a mission for up to 45 minutes before landing, even if the launch pad has moved to a new location. It can carry a payload of up to 6.6-pound (three kilograms).

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The average cost of the hybrid drone is $100,000, said Ivan Stamatovski, cofounder and chief technology officer. “Judging from the interest, it looks like this will be our primary product by the end of this year because it just combines the two things that are very much needed in the field,” Stamatovski said.

While other companies have produced hybrid drones, Stamatovski said the Raptor is unique in providing a tethered and free-flying drone that can be remotely deployed and operated from anywhere in the world.

Fielding the Raptor

Easy Aerial developed the hybrid system over an eight-month period after the company was invited by Georgia Tech to demonstrate a drone that could be released from a moving, tethered position. Although Easy Aerial wasn’t selected for the project, which focused on vehicles of the future, the exposure helped the company introduce the Raptor to the defense industry.

In May, the U.S. Army purchased the first two Raptor systems produced by Easy Aerial. Stamatovski said the Army will use the drone system for surveillance and reconnaissance, and added that the company has also demonstrated the Raptor for the U.S. Air Force.

One advantage the Raptor offers to the military is that it can hold radio transmitters and lift the equipment up to 300 feet. In free-flight mode, the system can fly up to 12 miles at speeds of excess of 60 miles per hour.

“Offering unlimited tethered flight time and up to 45 minutes of untethered autonomous free-flight, the Raptor provides public safety, defense, enterprise and industrial organizations with a reliable eye in the sky,” said Ido Gur, cofounder and CEO of Easy Aerial.

Commercial and Civil

Beyond the military, Easy Aerial has also sold the Raptor to an American railroad company, which is using it for surveillance and security in a large rail yard. If criminal targets are identified, the Raptor can pursue them and transmit footage back to the ground station.

Other potential applications include helping responders identify the sources of fast-spreading wildfires on the West Coast. “We have a lot of interested counties that would like to get their firefighters equipped with something that would allow them to understand where the fires are spreading,” Stamatovski said.

Law enforcement is another field that could deploy the Raptor, using it to identify suspects at crime scenes. Easy Aerial recently demonstrated the Raptor for the Chula Vista Police Department, just south of San Diego, which has been deploying drones since 2018 to provide information to police responding to emergency calls.

Easy Aerial, founded in 2015, now has 85 employees working at its headquarters in Brooklyn and in regional offices in Tel Aviv, Israel, and Belgrade, Serbia.