The Surveillance Drone from CyPhy Works Can Fly Forever

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Anyone who has flown a hobby drone knows the technology’s biggest weakness — limited flight time due to inferior battery technology. A 10-minute flight time is an all-too-harsh reality, but you can only stuff so much batteries into a drone before you start affecting its flight. A new drone from Boston drone maker CyPhy Works  solves this power problem by using a very small filament that is attached to the drone and that serves as a continuous power supply.

Parc CyPhy Works drone

The Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications PARC system is designed to provide long term persistent stare capabilities and enable reliable long distance communications. The PARC uses CyPhy Works’ patented microfilament system to deliver extreme endurance, increased capabilities, and a smaller logistical footprint. The PARC flies itself, so very little user training is required; and when operating the system the user can focus on the data that PARC produces, instead of the system itself.

The PARC was launched as a commercial product this week, after CyPhy Works received an exemption allowing customers to fly the drone for commercial purposes. “It’s basically a robot with unlimited time-of-flight,” said Helen Greiner, the founder of CyPhy Works, speaking this week at the EmTech 2015conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “You send it up and it stays there.”

The PARC system consists of a Ground Control Station and a purpose built hexrotor VTOL air vehicle. The PARC vehicle carries a gyro-stabilized, gimbal mounted, EO/IR camera payload. In addition to the camera system,PARC has additional payload capacity for communications devices. If additional payload capacity is required, the camera payload can be removed.

This vehicle can operate at altitudes of up to 500 feet above ground level, or 10,000 feet density altitude. This high altitude capability enables long distance communications and extends visual reach. The microfilament system carries power and Ethernet communication between the GCS and PARC vehicle. Because the microfilament provides a direct connection, communications are secure and reliable.

The PARC system provides high quality, full frame rate, unbroken, High Definition video that no other small or micro UAS can match. The PARC system can accept power input from a variety of ac and dc sources, making it viable for many applications. And because the PARC vehicle is powered from the ground, the flight duration is not limited by battery life. In the event of a power interruption or microfilament failure, the PARC vehicle has an on board backup battery that will allow the vehicle to safely and autonomously return to its launch site.

CyPhy Works is also developing a small untethered drone for hobbyists and a unique kind of delivery drone. The delivery drone has rotors that can swivel, allowing the aircraft to fly more like a plane, making its flight more energy-efficient. Greiner said this drone would be able to carry a five-pound payload for five miles.

Earlier this month the company received $22 million in funding from several venture capital firms as well as UPS, which has said it is interested in exploring drone delivery.

“By 2020 you will be seeing drone delivery,” Greiner said. “Technically we could do it earlier, but if you’ve been involved in the struggle with the FAA since the ′90s you would not place a bet that they would allow larger, non-line-of-sight vehicles to fly over populated cities.”

Currently, the FAA allows people to fly drones for recreational purposes as long as they maintain a light of sight with the drone, and as long as the vehicle stays below 400 feet, stays at least five miles from an airport, and is flown only in daytime. But the FAA is preparing to require amateur drone users to register their aircraft, and it hopes to have the rules for that in place by next month.

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