Geek Out

US Army's Gigantic 90m Drone Blimp Is Alive

The LEMV is a robot blimp the size of a football field, designed to spy across an entire battlefield for weeks at a time. It also looked like military vapourware until now, soaring over the Jersey Shore. You won’t believe how huge it is.

You might think a blimp — a concept militarised during WWI — is a strange choice for the 21st century battlefield. You might think it’s too farfetched to ever become a reality — after all, we started writing about it three years ago, and today the Pentagon can’t even get conventional jets to not cause pilots to black out. But the name of the game is autonomy, and the prospect of a robotic eye that can watch over enormous swaths of enemy terrain without the need for refuelling, maintenance or a human crew is obviously attractive. Crusted with sensors, guided by satellites and floating thousands of feet above combatants, the LEMV will potentially make surveillance over zones like Afghanistan as easy as watching a convenience store security camera. Cruise the giant robot with a joystick, spot the bad guys, and then blow them up with a smaller robot. This is war.

Yesterday’s inaugural flight over New Jersey, which surely startled a few beachgoers and ambling guidos — means the blimp is more than just a Pentagon wet dream. The army says the test went as planned, and according to Danger Room, the LEMV could hit Afghanistan for combat testing as soon as next year, where it’ll no doubt attract some attention. It’s not often you see a 90m blimp hovering over Afghanistan. [Danger Room]

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