76m Long Hybrid Airship Will Spy Over Afghanistan In 2011

Sometimes it feels like I'm already living in the future. The US Army's Space and Missile defence command plans to have an unmanned spy-ship capable of loitering at 6000 metres (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 38 metres 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 12-metre long, 4.6-metre 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]

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