New U.S. Army surveillance tool: A blimp that stays up for 30 days

Will surveillance blimps soon be flying over America?

By 2017, the U.S. Army may have added a new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in its arsenal -- one that is able to stay up for 30 days.

Developed by Raytheon, the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) is a giant airship consisting of two tethered blimps. Each JLENS blimp is 243-foot-long and while one houses a 360-degree surveillance radar to scan the horizon, the other carries a fire-control radar that can track individual targets. The twin radars can detect air and ground vehicles, boats, missiles and tanks.

The JLENS is able to float 10,000 feet in the air. In testing, the blimps were able to stay up for 20 days, but Raytheon says the finished product will last an additional 10 days.

The JLENS has been out on a six-week long test drive in Utah, and is due to begin a long-term surveillance trial across Washington, D.C. from 2014 to 2017.

During testing, members of the U.S. Army were able to control the JLENS to seek out ballistic missile targets, defeat cruise missiles by integrating with the Patriot and Standard Missile 6 defensive systems, and guide missiles over land and sea to shoot down other missiles.

The manufacturer says that the JLENS is a more cost effective way of defending vast swathes of territory for military or home operations.

Watch a video explaining the technology below.

Via: PopSci

Image credit: U.S. Army

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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