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C4iSR: Air

US Army eyes new 'high-altitude' airships or solar-powered sensor platforms

16 March 2017

US Army Space and Missile Defence Command (SMDC) is working with other Pentagon organisations to assess the value of high-altitude sensor capabilities for the army, including airships and solar-powered platforms.

High-altitude systems, which can operate around 60,000 ft and essentially at the edge of space, are able to provide persistent wide-area coverage and multimission flexibility, and SMDC is interested in them for a number of sensor roles, Richard DeFatta, director of the Future Warfare Center at SMDC, said during 15 March remarks at the Association of the US Army (AUSA) Global Force 2017 symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.

DeFatta said the command is considering two types of high-altitude platforms: lighter-than-air balloons or airships (either a single platform or a constellation) that ride stratospheric winds to keep station over a certain area, and solar-powered heavier-than-air aircraft with unique wing and propeller designs that can maintain position for weeks or months.

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