The flight of the Lockheed Martin high-altitude long endurance-demonstrator (HALE-D) airship ended after less than three hours last week in a forced landing. Two days later, much of it was destroyed by a ground fire during recovery operations. The HALE-D was the first of three lighter-than-air vehicles due to fly this year with Pentagon funding, as the U.S.
Stratospheric UAVs–mostly airships–that stay airborne flying for months or years will form a new communications and sensing infrastructure, according to the Market Intel Group (www.marketintelgroup.com). Government contracts are funding development of such UAVs at present, but commercial markets will eventually dwarf defense requirements.
A comeback for airships? How many times have you heard that before? However, thanks to generous funding by the Pentagon, four separate projects to develop very large buoyant air vehicles for unmanned persistent surveillance missions are under way in the U.S. Three of them are to take to the air within the next few months.