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A Stealthy, Worm-Shaped, Spying Airship. What?

by John Reed on January 23, 2012

Check out the latest piece of UAV spy tech that the DoD is looking at out at the giant Nevada Test Site. World Surveillance Group’s worm-like Argus One airship began flight demonstrations for the Pentagon at a Department of Energy-owned airstrip inside the mysterious test range. (It was probably at the DoE’s Yucca airstrip, a site that was recently revealed to be home to UAV ops.)

Argus One is meant to loiter for days at altitudes of 10,000 to 20,000-feet over targets while carrying 33-pounds of surveillance and communications in that little gondola that’s slung beneath the craft. Why the crazy looking design? Increased stability and maneuverability in the face of nasty winds and weather conditions.

Here’s what WSG says about the worm-blimp:

Argus One is an unmanned autonomous airship with automated control for individual body modules for improved flight stability and aerodynamic control. The design features the ability to control the rigidity between each module and the ability to pivot. The modules are operated by microcontrollers based on aerodynamic requirements. The airship’s altitude, overall response and handling characteristics and flight control utilizes a system of ballonets contained within each individual module, thereby creating a dynamically adjustable airship. The design of the Argus One differs significantly from many of the LTA rigid platforms that have been in operation for over a century.

It goes on to say that the Argus One is mean to be an “eye in the sky” that meets “certain requirements for ISR applications for U.S. military and other governmental agencies.” That “other governmental agencies” is probably a clue as to why it’s being tested at the remote Nevada facility.

The drone is being designed to beam images and other intel it collects in near real-time to ground control stations, it can also be programmed by operators to automatically fly to certain navigation points. And that weird shape, it also makes it easy to transport and operate Argus One from bare bones facilities in the middle of nowhere. Oh yeah, it’s also stealthy, according to WSG:

he Argus One has significant competitive advantages over the existing manned aircraft, heavier-than-air fixed wing UAVs, tethered aerostats and balloons, or low orbit satellite alternatives. The Argus One has a flexible, non-rigid envelope which allows for easy storage and transport to remote locations. There is no need for large hangars or airport infrastructure, as the Argus One can be assembled and tactically launched in hours from virtually anywhere, including remote, mountainous territory. The Argus One is designed to have a several day endurance capability and can stay on station with its module designed body, propulsion system and its sensor operated rigidity stabilization system, even in rough weather. The Argus One has a low radar footprint making it virtual stealth since the payload bay located on the forward module of the airship is the only radar reflecting material on the airship.

Ps. Yes, the balloon kinda looks like something else, but I’m gonna let you guys make those jokes.

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