Marines test surveillance blimp

RALEIGH, N.C., 10 May 2005. Carolina Unmanned Vehicles, Inc. (CUV) successfully debuted their new version of the Helikite Elevated Platform (HEP) at the Force Protection Equipment Demonstration V (FPED V) at Quantico Marine Base, Va. from 26 to 28 April 2005.

May 11th, 2005

RALEIGH, N.C., 10 May 2005. Carolina Unmanned Vehicles, Inc. (CUV) successfully debuted their new version of the Helikite Elevated Platform (HEP) at the Force Protection Equipment Demonstration V (FPED V) at Quantico Marine Base, Va. from 26 to 28 April 2005.

HEP is suitable for surveillance / security, communications relay and research missions. It operates for weeks at a time at a fraction of the cost of comparable aircraft or UAVs. It requires only two technicians, not highly trained pilots or UAV operators. It meets all FAA regulations and operates in FAA controlled airspace without special permission. unlike most UAVs.

This was the first public demonstration of CUV's new security / surveillance version of HEP, which features a Carrier, a 21 cubic meter (735 cubic feet) Helikite, and a stabilized camera payload. The Carrier, built by Carolina Unmanned Vehicles, is a high mobility trailer with helium tanks, winch and launch equipment for the Helikite. It incorporates both modified military hardware and special purpose components to mount all the handling equipment in one small trailer towed by a HMMWV or pickup truck. Many comparable blimp handling systems are five to ten times as large, and require multiple trucks for carriage.

Allsopp Helikites Ltd., Hampshire, Great Britain, builds the Helikite. Smaller and more versatile than comparable units, the patented Helikite supports more payload for its size than any ordinary blimp and operates in much higher winds than traditional blimp designs, improving system utility and capability in adverse weather. Its lifting surfaces support the blimp in winds which drive traditional designs into the ground by wind drag. During FPED the 21 meter Helikite flew continuously from Sunday to Thursday in sustained winds of 20 mph, with gusts to 35mph.

The camera payload by Hood Technology, Hood River, Ore. is a stabilized turret system originally built for Insitu Corp.'s SeaScan UAV and currently being used on Boeing's ScanEagle UAV. It is used on the SeaFox Unmanned Surface Vessel, which is being prepared for shipment to Iraq this summer. Its gyro stabilized mounting allows detailed surveillance of people and vehicles around the HEP deployment, out to a mile or more. It is ideally suited to securing base areas in Iraq, and for homeland security missions in the U.S.

Mike Rogers, the HEP project manager said, "Getting the equipment ready fro FPED was a close run thing and we didn't have time to test fly the new 21 meter blimp. I was very nervous about inflating and flying for the first time in the high winds. I prayed for calmer weather but the Lord did not oblige. Instead, the operations in the high winds were to our benefit. Potential DOD and Homeland Security customers were very impressed with the Helikite's performance."

FPED V was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, and co-sponsored by the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Justice and other organizations. It brought together more than 500 vendors and organizations who demonstrated over 2,500 items of force protection equipment to attendees from DoD, federal departments and agencies, state and local law enforcement and other first responders, corrections agencies and foreign attendees. Twenty categories of equipment included blast and ballistics mitigation, night vision / optics, barriers, individual protective equipment, non-lethal weaponry, chemical / biological detection, protection and mitigation, explosive detection and cargo inspection devices, and others. The CUV HEP system was the only blimp system shown.

Carolina Unmanned Vehicles is a small woman-owned company focused on autonomous and remotely operated sensor platforms, primarily UAVs. They provide both developmental work and technical support and analysis of UAV systems and related components. For more information, see www.carolinaunmanned.com.

More in Unmanned