250-Foot Long Hybrid Airship Will Spy Over Afghanistan Battlefields in 2011

Sometimes it feels like I'm already living in the future. The U.S Army's Space and Missile Defense command plans to have an unmanned spy-ship capable of loitering at 20,000-feet (for up to three weeks) ready to deploy by mid-2011.

Dubbed the Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV), the craft will be based on Lockheed Martin's P-791 experimental hybrid airship, which you can see in the video below. The smaller P-791 was 125-foot long, but flew six tests in 2006. It's known as a hybrid because only 80% of its lift comes from buoyancy; the other 20% comes from three downward thrusters on each side.

As for the LEMV: a 40-foot long, 15-foot wide area behind the only sometimes-manned cockpit will carry intelligence systems, like radar and wide-area motion sensors, that will beam information back to commanders on the ground.

Totally makes me think of Aeon Flux or Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Crazy.
[Aviation Week via The Register]