The tadpole-shaped airship formerly known as STS-111, currently known as Argus One, and commonly referred to as the sperm blimp, has completed initial flight tests and is on its way to the U.S. Army’s Yuma proving ground to undergo military testing.
The drone dirigible’s segmented design, crafted by Germany’s TAO Technologies, is aimed at resisting the push, pull, and twist of air currents. It also boasts a unique “Fuelgas” system that runs the blimp’s engines on a fuel mixture with the same density as atmospheric air, keeping the aircraft’s buoyancy the same as it burns off its fuel supply (this trick is actually not new, but was devised in the 1930s during the golden age of airships).
Tested in Germany in 2009, the STS-111/Argus One system is intended for deployment as a surveillance and communications relay drone, but the company (companies?) behind it haven’t been exactly on the up and up. Several name changes, deals, and at least one SEC probe have kept the blimp off the radar for going on two years now.
But one $300,000 civil penalty later, the Argus One appears back on track. Army testing will commence this summer, barring anymore unforeseen setbacks, an extension of the military’s ongoing love affair with airships. Video of a 2008 prototype test is below.