SME recently spoke with Grant Lawton, engineer at W.L. Gore & Associates, to discuss how to better understand cable performance in tethered drone applications. He specializes in cable engineering and design that supports aerospace data and power systems, including Ethernet, Fibre Channel, FireWire, and Databus, among many other protocols. He is a featured presenter at this year’s AeroDef event.
How does one find the best balance in efficiency performance, capabilities, and design in cable materials for tethered drones, based on the type of application it’s engineered to perform?
This is an engineered decision. In any application there are always priorities that determine how trade-offs can be made. Each drone model will have a distinct steady state power requirement related to its size and payload. In general, the smallest, lightest cable that can support the power is the best choice. Ultimately, the lighter a cable can be for the needed power capacity, the higher the drone can fly to perform the below missions. The cable also must operate in inclement weather and with hundreds of feet of tether exposed, the cable must keep itself from soaking up water (or other fluids for that matter) which will weigh down the drone. These missions need a tough cable to make sure cable maintenance does not eat up money and time.