Skip to main navigation Skip to main content
The University of Southampton

AETHER: Tethered UAV

Affordable persistent stare unmanned aircraft

The ability to conduct persistent stare on a target is sought after by both military and civilian organisations. The current options are helium balloons (blimps), observation masts, free-flying multi-rotors and kites.

Each solution has its drawbacks in terms of physical size, height limitation, endurance and wind speed direction.

Technological advantages of AETHER


Technology roadmap

AETHER technology uses a powered tether to overcome issues of endurance, while also providing safety from runaway. AETHER has been developed to be a truly portable, affordable system solution, based on COTS components. Developments will include greater height capability (up to 300 m) and a smaller overall package size of 1m³. There will be further developments to power and the ability of the UAV to operate in a harsh marine environment.

The year 2014 saw AETHER's initial system development phase, first flight and validation period, and our obtaining CAA permission for aerial work (PFAW). In 2015, we were heavily involved in system demonstrations to potential customers in the UK, including a flight in central London approved by NATS. Plans for 2016 include a venture capital financing round and will see commencement


Collaboration Opportunity

AETHER is ready to be developed into a commercial system. We are currently looking for investment partners who would hopefully have some experience of academic and commercial funding for high-tech bespoke solutions. This proof of concept prototype was developed in-house under a six-month consultancy project in collaboration with the Cardinal Group, who have now created a new company, Tethered Drone Systems Ltd to continue the development work in partnership with the University and to commercialise the system.

If you would like to know more please contact or

Autonomous System Laboratory:

Privacy Settings