LAS VEGAS--Military personnel and defense contractors attending the year’s largest unmanned systems convention here awoke this morning to a bit of breaking robotics news unraveling thousands of miles away from their briefing rooms and exhibition booths. First lighting up Twitter and later acknowledged by the Army, the first flight of Northrop Grumman’s robotic Long-Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) took place this morning in New Jersey, marking the first flight of one of the DoD’s next generation military airships.
The second golden age of the airship has run head-on into a logistical snag, Danger Room reports this morning. The military is so eager to get more airships in the air in places like Afghanistan that industry cannot keep up with its demand for helium gas and helium gas containers.
Finding and capturing insurgents behind deadly roadside bomb attacks has proven tricky, but an ex-U.S. Air Force officer says that airships could have deployed as early as 2006 to provide steady surveillance that can track bombers back to their lairs. Now he has gone public with his criticism of how the Air Force shunted aside airships in favor of preserving the roles of aircraft and satellites -- an action that he says cost the lives of warfighters.