FORT BENNING, Ga., May 21 (UPI) -- For military bases too small to keep blimp-like aerostats, the U.S. Army is testing "Helikites," a half-kite, half-blimp aircraft for low-level surveillance.
An aircraft that combines the properties of a blimp and a kite, and carries communications and surveillance equipment, is among the pilotless flying equipment currently being tested at the Army base at Fort Benning, Ga., Stars and Stripes reported Monday.
Since many of the American military bases in Afghanistan are not large enough to accommodate and maintain the large aerostats that hover over battlefields and enemy lines, sending back photos and other information, "We are looking at small, more tactical aerostats that can be used at those small bases, " said Maj. Peter Moore, product director at the Fort Benning-based Rapid Equipping Force.
The Helikite is among the small aerostats being tested to learn how long launch and recovery operations take, how they perform in windy conditions and how long training programs for operating personnel will take, the newspaper said.
Helikites range in size from a model 6 feet long capable of lifting cameras and communications equipment, to an aircraft 24 feet long that can lift as much as 30,000 pounds of equipment, said Sandy Allsopp, owner of the British firm Allsopp Helikites, which makes the aircraft for the U.S. Air Force and Navy, and the British Army.