Drones have arrived at high school graduation ceremonies — but not for the reason you might think

With high school graduation comes pomp, circumstance…and now drones.

Drones seem to be popping up everywhere, and high school graduation ceremonies have become their next stop.

Tethered drone maker Drone Aviation Holding Corp. announced that its tethered drones, which are actually DJI Matrice 200 units, were used at two major high school graduation ceremonies held in southern Arizona so far this year.

The tethered drones, part of the company’s FUSE Tether System, weren’t getting epic aerial shots of the ceremony, though. The drones were put in place by Arizona’s Oro Valley Police Department as part of its security and monitoring efforts.

While drones have been used to gather aerial video of ceremonies (the San Francisco Bay Area’s Morgan Hill Unified School District last year used drones to live stream video “to make high school graduation more accessible to all friends and families”), these drones are being flown for safety purposes.

“The threats to public safety are changing, demanding new ways to gather situational awareness in real time, and we believe that tethered drones can be a valuable tool in helping protect our communities and the public at large,” said Lt. John Teachout, in a prepared statement.

Drone Aviation’s Chairman and CEO Jay Nussbaum noted “this time of frequent headlines reporting horrifying attacks at schools and public gatherings” as a reason that high schools are looking to drones as a solution.

The Oro Valley Police Department purchased a fleet of drones earlier this year with the intent of using them for everything from tracking suspects to search and rescue operations.

For the graduation ceremonies, the Matrice 200 drones flew about 150 feet above the ground, allowing law enforcement to monitor the venue’s perimeter and the flow of people and traffic in and out of the school’s facilities in real time. Since the drones are tethered, they were able to operate for many hours at a time without needing to swap out batteries. Without a tether, the Matrice 200 typically has a maximum flight time of 38 minutes with no payload.

So how does it work?

The company’s FUSE Tether System is a proprietary mix of hardware and software. Customers get a power pack which comes with 200 feet of tether supporting 110-volt ground power sources such as portable generators. The company’s tether system is compatible with both the M200 and DJI’s Inspire 2. The company also says that there is an onboard backup power pack and tether as a fail safe.

Drone Aviation Holding Corp. is a Florida-based company formed in 2014 out of the acquisition of Lighter Than Air Systems, which had been developing tethered drones as early as 2009. The company also sells its products to the U.S. Department of Defense.

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