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When droning on is critical….

Whether its an UAV, USV, ROV or AUV*

US Airforce MQ-9 Reaper
An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan. Taken by: U.S. Air Force Photo / Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt. From the USAF Photographic Archives.

Most people realize that military drones are used for two main purposes: surveillance gathering and unmanned combat. Surveillance is a broad term for the video and analog data gathering that drones complete to support the military’s analysis, planning, and situational awareness.

What many don’t realize is that drones have been designed for not only for the air-based usage but also land and water-based activity. No matter where they are used, drones require highly-specialized cable assemblies to connect and power the different subsystems that allow a drone to function. These systems include:

  • Propulsion

  • Movement controls

  • Batteries

  • Sensors and cameras

Cable assemblies transmit, power, data and signals within the drone’s systems and to an onboard transmission point. The data and imagery transmitted is then sent to a control unit and receiver where another set of cables send the data to appropriate outputs. When used for military purposes, not only does the data have to be transmitted instantaneously, it must be transmitted flawlessly, while operating in potentially extreme conditions.

These requirements mean that these cable assemblies used by a drone system require high-grade, materials and specialty connectors. For example, even if simple copper wire is used as the conductor material, wire selection must take into consideration insulation and jacketing requirements. For example, Kevlar is even braided over certain cable assemblies used in drones to protect them. The wires must also be properly protected to ensure that the data and signals do not degrade due to electromagnetic interference. The cable assemblies which serve as the central nervous systems for these drones must also be further ruggedized with either potting or overmolding to help ensure performance in harsh environments. Harsh conditions could range from the ocean depths to deserts, from jungles to upper atmosphere, planet earth to outer space and can easily include extreme temperatures, shocks, humidity, solar radiation, and/or chemical corrosion. Finally, unlike cable assemblies which go into large, manned vehicles; these cables tend to be in devices where size and weight constraints are quite stringent. For example, the cables on the Mars Rover had to be designed so they weighted about 3 ounces.

A critical part of the manufacturing process is how well the soldered joints are made. AT DECA we offer Class 3 soldering. Class 3 solders are for products that must provide at high performance levels and be ready on demand. Downtime cannot be tolerated, even in harsh or extreme environments.

Drones usage is expanding. Here a drone is used for spraying crops/agriculture

Drone usage for surveillance is providing drones with a burgeoning set of applications for non-military use too. Drones are increasingly found in industrial applications because they can observe large spaces, from high altitudes and be used in hazardous areas that can be hard or dangerous for workers to reach. For example:

  • Search and Rescue: find missing people and survey on the ground conditions after natural disasters

  • Mining: observe open pit or tunnel conditions in regular operations or after mining accidents

  • Agriculture: spraying crops, checking growth, or observing livestock

While these applications may not require the same amount of ruggedization as a drone going into a combat zone, make sure that your drone’s central nervous system will function as expected by using a manufacturer who understands material and ruggedization requirements.

Contact Us Today About Your Next Project

Do you require high performance/ruggedized cables? DECA has a great deal of experience manufacturing cable harnesses for a wide variety of uses. Learn more about DECA or give us call today to talk about your next project or contact us online.

*Abbreviations of Common Drone Types

  • USV: unmanned surface vessels

  • ROVs: remotely operated vehicles

  • AUVs: autonomous underwater vehicles

  • LDUUV: large-displacement unmanned undersea vehicles


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