Forget highflying spy planes, the US military plans to send an all-seeing blimp to a height of 65,000 feet to spot enemies, watch out for cruise missiles and relay communications using a huge phased-array radar antenna embedded in its belly. Lockheed Martin is figuring out how to make the thing light enough to fly and operate at such a height for over a year at a stretch, and is looking to make it all happen by 2011.
Not only does such an airship need to be unusually light, its battery power has to be more efficient than any in existence today, where it needs to use a quarter of the weight to store the same amount of energy currently possible.
From first-hand experience, we can vouch for how perfectly a blimp functions as a platform in the sky, just sitting up there with very little energy expended. It's the perfect antenna. Thank goodness this particular device will be unmanned, because think of it—oh, the humanity—sitting up there for a year with nothing to do but stare into space.
All-Seeing Blimp On The Rise [DefenseTech]