Surveillance Airship Takes Shape
8:48 PM on Feb 24, 2012
On its blog, The Edgefighter, tiny Mav6 has been teasing us with pictures of its M1400 surveillance airship taking shape for the US Air Force's Blue Devil 2 (BD2) program.
Like the US Army's Northrop Grumman Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) hybrid airship, the BD2 was supposed to to have flown by the end of last year. But all is quiet on the LEMV front and the M1400 is still in final assembly and ground testing at airship maker TCOM in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. (LEMV is being assembled at NAS Lakehurst in New Jersey).
Both airships are scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan this year to provide persistent multi-sensor surveillance.
The M1400 is a 370ft-long non-rigid airship designed to fly unmanned at 20,000ft for up to nine days. Mission endurance is 72hr with a 7,500lb payload and five days with a 2,500lb payload.
The airship envelope has been inflated with helium since late September, as the picture above shows. A better idea of its scale is given by the image below showing the aft maneuvering thruster attached to the end of the hull.
The airship will have power and payload cars slung below the envelope. The photo below shows the power car. This mounts three 310hp Thielert diesel main engines (here covered in plastic), each of which will drive an 11ft prop via a lightweight belt transmission.
The payload car (below, in the background) has the cockpit at the front. The M1400 is optionally manned and will be flown with a crew on board for flight testing and ferrying overseas.
What the flightdeck looks like is shown below, in a picture of Mav6 CEO Dave Deptula in the BD2 cockpit in NASA Ames' Vertical Motion Simulator used for pre-qualification training. In unmanned operation, the airship will be flown via UHF satcom from two pilot consoles in a command and control shelter on the ground.
The removable payload car is designed to enable the rapid (less than 4hr) integration of different systems, with the BD2 planned to carry a combination of high-definition and wide-area EO/IR sensors, SAR and GMTI radars, and radio and laser communications links.