Tactical aerostat designed for high winds deploying to Afghanistan

The first of six small, tactical aerostats ordered by the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force (REF) has been delivered by Carolina Unmanned Vehicles (CUV), Raleigh, NC, and is readying for deployment to Afghanistan to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for small, forward operating bases that cannot meet the logistic requirements of larger aerostat systems.

The Small Tactical Multi-Payload Aerostat System (STMPAS) consists of several optional ISR payloads developed by Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI). The sensors are attached under a small, specially designed tethered blimp called a Helikite. A trailer-carrier that stores the Helikite and the required winch, sensors and helium tanks are also provided.

The STMPAS blimp flies at 1,000 feet, and GTRI and the Army tested STMPAS prototypes at Fort Huachuca and Fort Benning early in 2012. REF procured six Rev-1 STMPAS, with modifications from the prototype testing, for operational deployment to Afghanistan.

Traditional aerostats cannot operate in high winds unless fairly large, typically with 200 pounds of lift or more, making them unsuitable for deployment to small isolated bases, according to CUV.

STMPAS uses the patented Helikite lifting aerostat from Allsopp Helikites of Great Britain. Helikites have lifting surfaces that generate aerodynamic lift to support the blimp in winds that would drive traditional designs into the ground. With the Helikite, STMPAS can be smaller and more mobile than traditional aerostat systems yet still operate in high winds.

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