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Air Force Developing Surveillance Mega-Blimp Dubbed 'Blue Devil'

U.S. Air Force develops mega-blimp.
The U.S. Air Force is developing a $211 million surveillance mega-blimp, which, if completed, could stay in the air for a week and will be seven times larger than the Goodyear Blimp. The project, dubbed 'Blue Devil,' could change the way surveillance missions are carried out in Afghanistan by serving as a floating information hub, according to Wired. The 350-foot-long blimp could ascend as high as 20,000 feet and survey a 2.5-mile-wide swath of land. While these specs are impressive, it's what the blimp will carry on-board that's really mindboggling. The Blue Devil blimp will be equipped with about a dozen interchangeable sensors, which will be connected to several on-board cameras.

To process and index all the footage that's collected, Blue Devil will also haul a supercomputer, which will host the equivalent of 2,000 single-core servers. This gigantic processor is crucial to the project's primary goal, which is to get information to the ground within 15 seconds. It understandably takes a lot of manpower and time to organize and sift through surveillance data that's culled from several different aircraft in a given area; by serving as a central surveillance hub for a large area, Blue Devil could save critical time for military analysts. Not only would all the data be collected in one place, but the blimp's supercomputer could also process and index this data using meta tags, like time or location, which would make it easier for ground troops to search and pull the information they need from the servers.

If project Blue Devil comes together as planned (which may be a big "if," considering that the Air Force hasn't even begun to assemble the hull yet), the mega-blimp will take its first flight on October 15th. Don't forget though, the U.S. Army is also developing a Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV), which is planned to launch by the end of the year. Who will launch first? It looks like it will be a race to the finish, folks -- a very slow and expensive one, but a race nonetheless.

Tags: AirForce, airship, airships, blimp, blimps, flight, military, surveillance, top, transportation, UsAirForce