L15 – The Autonomous Airship

The Nevada based company Airship Surveillance has announced the successful trial flight of a new surveillance airship called L15. The long loiter time of the airship is expected to make it a supreme surveillance tool. The new automated built in technology will reduce the need for expensive ground personnel, improving safety and lowering operation costs.

The L15 is the first airship made by Airship Surveillance that is fully optimized for surveillance missions. Its design will enable operation at 15,000 feet with payloads of up to 1000lbs. The L15 will be able to carry out missions lasting up to 50 hours and to maneuver at speeds of 60 knots.

The airship’s design includes optimized hull form, which provides laminar flow along the ship’s entire length almost, as well as a large diameter stern mounted propeller, which was designed specifically for the airship’s speed and range. The combination of the laminar flow hull and efficient propeller design reduces drag and fuel consumption, resulting in longer range and longer loitering time.

The L15 rudders are placed well within the airflow of the propeller, providing ample control even at low speeds; Furthermore, the bow thruster provides positive yaw control during extremely low speed ground handling. During surveillance missions, these features are expected to be quite useful. While on ground, a large undercarriage footprint provides a high level of stability. Throughout its missions, a water recovery system provides the airship’s static condition control, ensuring it will be ‘heavy’ for landing, in order to facilitate simple and safe recovery procedures.

According to Airship Surveillance, most of the hazardous procedures associated with the airship’s operation, including the ground handling procedures, have been significantly simplified or semi-automated so that they were dramatically reduced or even eliminated altogether. Moreover, a support crew of three people is sufficient to operate the airship, and there is no need for dedicated ground crew personnel.

TFOT has also covered the Aeroscraft, an airship designed to carry exceptionally large amounts of cargo over very long distances, and the GEN H-4, the world’s smallest co-axial helicopter, designed for personal use. Another related story is the train cable unmanned aerial vehicle, an unmanned aerial surveillance system, which can stay in the air for longer periods of time and can cover more ground than any existing UAV.

For more information on the L15, see the Airship Suveillance website.

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