A 170-foot non-rigid airship, the Polar 400, made its maiden flight the day after Thanksgiving; its revolutionary design may result in a low-cost alternative to heavier-than-air unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The Virginian-Pilot carried the story, complete with exclusive photos.
"It's very responsive. It's the most maneuverable blimp I've ever flown," said test pilot Doug McFadden. "To my knowledge, no one has mounted an engine on a non-rigid surface, and no one has used hydraulic propulsion to do it," explained Alan Ram, head a propulsion for the project.
Blackwater Airships, a unit of Blackwater Worldwide, designed the airship to carry intelligence-gathering cameras, sensors and communications gear for counterterrorism, counternarcotics and border security operations. The vehicle is unmanned and piloted by remote control from the ground.
"With a few engineering innovations, Blackwater hopes to turn a time-tested platform - the Navy used blimps to watch for enemy submarines in World War II - into a modern tool for combating terrorism and for other 21st-century needs," the Virginian-Pilot explained.