Lockheed Martin has been working on a new generation of airships, which I have always called blimps. Decades ago, the airship was seen as the future of passenger flight across the country and between continents. The airship was quickly surpassed in capability by aircraft and thanks to notable disasters it was relegated to use for advertising and filming sporting events for the most part.
Lockheed rolled out its next generation HALE-D or High Altitude Long Endurance-Demonstrator yesterday for its first flight. The idea is that the HALE-D will ascend to an altitude of about 12 miles above the earth and float there in a geostationary position where it can monitor a huge patch of land and airspace. The idea is that the airship can have capabilities similar to those of satellites at much less cost.
The HALE-D could survey a 600-mile stretch of land along with all the airspace above that land from its fixed position. The HALE-D is an unmanned aircraft. The test flight this week was set to take the HALE-D up to 60,000 feet. At 32,000 feet, the airship had a problem and had to land at a “predetermined area” in Pennsylvania. The thing that makes me chuckle about the “predetermined area” is that the area the airship landed in was heavily wooded and Lockheed is trying to figure out how to retrieve the airship right now. Lockheed says there were no injuries or damage to the aircraft.