Near-space surveillance balloons

If U.S. Air Force experiments are successful, free-floating “near space” surveillance balloons could be deployed by late next year, according to Maj. Robert Blackington of the Air Force Space Battlelab.

The “free floater” would be an unguided balloon carrying a surveillance or communications payload. The idea came seeing pictures made by a company that produces weather balloons. The digital camera placed on one of their balloons took pictures of the Earth from about 100,000 feet.

The result was an almost identical shot with the same resolution than satellite imagery.

Another near-space concept is a high-altitude balloon that would release a glider carrying surveillance equipment. The balloon floats “over to your area of interest, and then once they’ve gotten [there], they release the glider and the glider goes in a lazy circle,” said Blackington. “The beauty of it is, you can recover the glider in friendly territory, so if you have a high-value payload, you don’t lose it, like you do with these other free-floater concepts.”

Via Defense Tech.