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Lockheed Martin developed this high-altitude 56,000-cubic-foot tethered aerostat surveillance system for deployment in Iraq. The aerostats, equipped with various sensors, will provide a persistent surveillance capability for the defense of ground forces and high-value assets in Baghdad.
The military is currently testing the use of small, inexpensive balloons to increase communications range. In combat areas, radios now have a range of 10 miles, but balloons could extend that to about 400 miles.
Searching for diamondsGem-mining company De Beers is leasing a Zeppelin-NT airship to hunt for potential diamond deposits in Botswana and South Africa from hundreds of feet up in the air. The rigid dirigible carries high-tech sensors from Bell Geospace that conduct geological scans to pinpoint the lower-density rock formations where diamonds may be found. Unlike airplanes, the Zeppelin-NT has a low level of noise and can cruise at low speeds, suitable for the advanced gravity geometry technology.
Here we see the De Beers Zeppelin-NT in flight near Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. The airship typically takes off at sunset and flies for six or seven hours a night, when there is less turbulence. According to a survey team member, it can cover as many as 300 kilometers (about 186 miles) in a day, compared with the 5 kilometers (just more than 3 miles) a ground crew can log.