A change of generations? A leap forward in technology? The definitions can be different, but one thing is sure - hovering platforms are taking over the missions of aerostats.
Hovering air vehicles (HAV) are becoming more efficient and there is a very clear operational trend to use them instead of good old aerostats.
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), a leading developer of unmanned air systems (UAS), is a natural source for advanced HAVs.
The company recently highlighted its Electric Tethered Observation Platform (ETOP) as a direct substitute for tactical observation aerostats, deployed along borders and near sensitive installations.
IAI is in the final phase of developing the ETOP, which will become a "family" of very advanced systems in different sizes.
ETOP is an electrically powered, tethered, airborne platform that can be used for observation, surveillance and other applications.
ETOP can either be deployed from a static station, a maritime platform or from a moving ground vehicle. It can carry a payload of up to 20kg and operate up to a maximum altitude of 100m.
ETOP combines an electrically powered aerial platform and a ground system that includes the means for automatic deployment, cables, and a mission management unit.
"We see a meaningful potential market for these systems, mainly in countries that are operating aerostats, but not only," an IAI source said.