Military eyes stealthy stratospheric balloons to help with communications, drop reconnaissance sensors

July 27, 2020
The project would use Internet of Things (IoT) technology for miniature low-cost sensors to locate and track radio communications, cell phones, WiFi.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – Google sister company Loon LLC in Mountain View, Calif., has launched a service providing 4G internet to remote parts of Kenya from high-altitude balloons at 65,000 feet. Forbes reports. Continue reading original article

The Military & Aerospace Electronics take:

27 July 2020 -- The commercial launch shows the steerable balloon technology, which Loon has been working with since 2011, is reliable enough for everyday use. This is a powerful new capability that the Pentagon is keen to exploit.

High-altitude balloons are cheap and have unlimited flight time, but previously have been limited to drifting with the wind. The challenge has been developing sensors, algorithms, and software to navigate the winds reliably and precisely.

Stratospheric balloons may solve one of the U.S. military’s thorniest problems: gathering intelligence in anti-access and area denial environments, places where the defenses are too dangerous for aircraft to approach. A U.S. Army project, moreover, aims to employ stratospheric balloons to drop a shower of reconnaissance sensors into denied areas.

Related: The role of technology in securing the nation’s borders

Related: Persistent surveillance on a non-satellite budget is goal of U.S. military airship development

Related: Air Force wants industry ideas on balloon-based radio relay system

John Keller, chief editor
Military & Aerospace Electronics

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