A moving aerostat may sound like an oxymoron, but Allsopp Helikites suggests it is the ideal answer to a capable yet low-cost means of providing border security and force protection.
The company has developed a 34m3 aerostat known as the Helikite that can be towed by a vehicle while still aloft, allowing it to be rapidly repositioned to meet emerging operational requirements, or to provide coverage over a wider area than is possible from a fixed location.
Static aerostats are in use with several forces and have demonstrated their ability to provide persistent surveillance in critical locations. However, to secure linear areas of interest such as borders, coastlines or pipelines, several are required to provide complete coverage.
Helikite can be employed from a fixed location, or towed at up to 30mph. The helium-filled aerostat is highly weather-resistant, its aerodynamic shape and rigid fin allowing it to survive wind speeds of up to 60mph. It is mounted on a trailer that carries everything required for its operation, which can be undertaken by one or two personnel.
On arrival at the operating location, Helikite can be inflated and launched to a maximum of 2,000ft altitude in a matter of minutes. This makes it highly applicable for ad hoc or short-duration surveillance requirements. Its towable capability allows it to patrol at up to 30mph along defined sectors, or to ‘move with the action’.
The aerostat carries a gyrostabilised payload comprising a zoomable electro-optic camera for daytime use and a 640x420- line thermal imager for night surveillance. Telemetry controls and sensor imagery can be up- and downlinked between the aerostat and the trailer-mounted control station by radio or fibre-optic cable.