Balloons and hovering platforms – cost-effective solutions

Hovering platforms and balloons. One platform is new and very advanced, the other is making a comeback. Both serve to put an “eye in the sky” for long endurances and with little operational costs.


The demand created the innovation and the comeback, and customers are very satisfied with the variety.


Last week, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Chilean air operator Vision Austral demonstrated their combined advanced surveillance capabilities at the FIDAE 2012 International Air & Space Fair in Santiago, Chile.


Plug-In Optronic Payload (POP300) by IAI’s Tamam Division, installed on Vision Austral’s Cameron observation balloon, was used to showcase various potential solutions to law enforcement and homeland security missions, as well as civilian applications such as control of traffic in the main Chilean cities.


POP300 is a modular, lightweight, gyro-stabilised day/night observation system.

According to IAI, the system is in use by international defence and law enforcement agencies, while thousands of POP payloads are in operational service worldwide.


POP300 is based on a plug-in slice concept. The slice contains the optronic sensors, which can be easily replaced on-site within minutes without the need for alignment or adjustment. This slice concept also allows for easy upgrades whenever new sensor slices are introduced.


POP300 includes a high-performance Focal Plane Array thermal imager (infrared), a colour CCD TV camera, an automatic video tracker and a laser pointer.


An onboard mapping system can also be installed on the platform, along with a digital recorder and a video data link.


During the recent AUVSI conference in Tel Aviv, Sky Sapience displayed the prototype of its HoverMast tethered hovering platform.


The HoverMast is deployed with a click of a button, rising to heights of up to 50m within 10-15 seconds.


Secured by a cable, serving as a power supply and wideband data link, the highly stabilised HoverMast combines advanced flight algorithms and innovative materials to provide the highest payload-to-size ratio available today.


Weighing only 10kg, the platform is capable of hosting 9kg payloads such as electro-optic sensors, laser designators, radar and sophisticated COMINT and ELINT systems.


Its data link enables the transfer of critical data to selected recipients in real time.


The company’s CEO, Brig Gen (IAF Ret) Gabriel Shachor, said that the HoverMast is part of a “family” of hovering systems that is being developed by the company.


He confirmed that there are negotiations with a number of potential customers.

So balloons and hovering platforms are gaining in popularity.


This is mainly for two reasons – relatively low cost, and long endurance. This seems to me a winning combination.



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