Zenith Aerotech, a leading developer of heavy-lift tethered drones, announced that, over the span of a week, its Quad 8 multi-rotor platform flew a total of 161 hours and 49 minutes—108 hours of which were continuous, uninterrupted flight.

In doing so, the TAV far exceeded the capabilities of competing tethered drones and demonstrated its ability to serve as a long-endurance platform for persistent surveillance.

“Small, multirotor-type drones are notorious for their limited air endurance. By contrast, tethered aerial vehicles, which draw power from a generator on the ground, can stay aloft for hours at a stretch,” said Kutlay Kaya, CEO of Zenith Aerotech. “But no other TAV company has ever been able to fly a platform for as long as we just did. This is a major technological breakthrough for small unmanned systems.”

The test, which took place over a seven-day period at the company’s facility in Afton, was initiated at the request of a government customer prior to delivery. The Quad 8 TAV, which carried an electro-optical/infrared camera and an Echodyne EchoFlight radar, flew for most of that time, only coming down twice, during lightning storms, which had to be waited out.

“We observed all the FAA regulations for day and nighttime operation,” Kaya said. “Our team was on site around the clock, with people taking 8-hour shifts to watch the TAV and the Ground Power-Tether Management System. There were two times we had to bring down the Quad 8, but as soon as those storms subsided, the TAV was back in the air. We flew through 18 hours of light to heavy rain with wind gusts up to 40 mph.”

Zenith Aerotech recently partnered with Sydney-based DroneShield to provide enhanced drone-detection capabilities and countermeasures. In putting DroneShield’s DroneSentry-C2 command-and-control application, along with an Echodyne radar, onto a TAV, Zenith AeroTech provided a platform with a higher elevation than the standard mast. This eliminated clutter and false positives, allowing for better counter-drone detection. Now it provides extreme long-endurance too.

“By demonstrating more than 100 hours of flight time, we’ve opened up our TAV to all sorts of mission sets and customers,” Kaya said. “It’s a really very exciting.”