Touting a revolutionary design, Blackwater successfully tested its airship prototypes from a World War II-era Naval air station in North Carolina.
The test of a 170-foot non-rigid blimp, called Polar 400, excited the crew. "It's very responsive. It's the most maneuverable blimp I've ever flown," Blackwater test pilot Doug McFadden tells the Virginian-Pilot.
The Virginian-Pilot's website contains exclusive photos of the airship prototypes and tests.
Blackwater Airships, a unit of Blackwater Worldwide, designed the blimp to carry intelligence-gathering cameras, sensors and communications gear for counterterrorism, counternarcotics and border security operations. The blimp is to be unmanned and piloted by remote control from the ground.
Blackwater intends for its airships to be low-cost alternatives to other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The blimps can fly at 10,000 feet and require only a crew of three.
"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 combatting terrorism and for other 21st-century needs," the Virginian-Pilot's Jon W. Glass reports.
"Hoping to wedge its way into a highly competitive market, the company is touting its airship as a lower-cost, longer-operating alternative to the fixed and rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicles now widely used by the Air Force and other military services."
For Blackwater's news release of its airship tests, click here.