Military Robotics

Air Force Awards Robot Airship Contracts

Posted 11 May 2006 at 01:26 UTC by steve Share This

The US Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) has awarded to contracts for the DARPA Integrated Sensor is Structure (ISIS) program to develop sensors for 500 foot long, autonomous High Altitude Airships (HAA) that stay aloft for years at a time. Lockheed Martin received $8.8 million to develop a power system for the stratospheric airship. Northrop Grumman got $15.5 million for power systems and the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) sensor that will be bonded directly to the hull material of the airship. The ISIS platforms are intended to be able to track cruise missle up to 370 miles away and "enemy combatants" (people) up to 200 miles away. The robot airships would float in geostationary positions at 70,000 feet, safely above the jet stream and severe weather. Helium would provide lift, while a thin film of photovoltaic cells would charge fuel cells. Differential thrust would be provided by electric props. Lockheed Martin has previously been awarded $40 million in 2003 by NORAD, which wants 10 ships to cover the continental borders of the US and another $149 million earlier this year for development of a prototype. Some graphics of the proposed vehicle can be seen on the HAA page and in the Lockheed HAA brochure (PDF format).


Popping the baloons, posted 11 May 2006 at 12:19 UTC by motters » (Master)

This seems like a rather lame idea from a military perspective, although they could be very useful for commercial purposes. Airships are big and slow, making them easy targets for missiles, perhaps fired from other drone planes flying at high altitude.

However, as happened in the first world war a nation using airships might gain a temporary military advantage.

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