by Rick Osmon
The Sun story (I found thanks to the Drudge Report) about a 460 foot long yacht that sports its own helo pad and airship is kinda cool. I’m not sure it’s practical, but it’s kinda cool. I guess practicality may depend on your application or need for vindication.
Of course, the US Navy has the most complete history of pairing airships to surface ships, but everybody from NASA to Goodyear has practical application under their respective belt. To date, most of the practical application has been for surveillance or observation.
We’ve also carried stories about heavy lift freight airships, remote access hospital modules deployed by airship, equatorial arboreal species scientists using airships to enable research, and dozens of other potential applications of airships. And yet, the only airships we see commonly are somehow tied to sports or other major event coverage…. Meaning, of course, a form of surveillance and observation.
You’ve also seen us publish many, many stories about “drones”. How they have and will continue to endanger your privacy while adding to both your potential for improving personal security and detracting from it.
So what happens when the two technologies combine? What happens when a drone can stay aloft for months at a time while supporting the types of cameras that can read a license plate from a hundred and eight miles in space? Will they be used to capture more cute kitten footage for Facebook?
No, these will be intended to capture scenes from at least tens, perhaps hundreds of miles away that orbital satellites can’t capture at all and more conventional spy planes don’t have the dwell time.
What will be the subject of surveillance? Probably, you will. Just like with all the other technologies, more is applied here at home than is used to perform surveillance on foreign threats. While there are a great many potential uses for a drone airship that would not involve their use to spy on Americans, those other, peaceful potential uses will not be the reasons those drones get built.
One really good, if challenging, potential use would be to park a solar electric array 20 miles above the surface and send the energy to earth as a microwave frequency power beam converted to heat and used to generate terrestrial electricity. However, if such an airship is ever built and launched with, I predict, lots of government and corporate cooperation and subsidies, it will suffer a long history of underachieving in its initial supposed role while still providing awe inspiring photos from the edge of space. Some of kittens.
Anyone who was a fan of the now defunct, but always classic TV show “Fringe” is familiar with the image of multiple airships in the skies over New York. Yeah, it’ll be like that. Those ships won’t be watching our enemies, they’ll be watching us.