AUVSI: Very odd Ultra HALE unveiled

Washington DC
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In a convention hall full of strange contraptions, Connecticut-based D-Star Engineering stands out from the crowd.

The company's hybrid blended-wing-body airship design, here at the show in the form of a wind tunnel model, looks to be a cross between a horseshoe crab and a blimp.

Looks aside, company president S Paul Dev says the design combines the best of blimps and ribbon wing designs and would be able to fly at altitudes of 65,000ft for more than a year, relocating 272kg (600lb) of payload at speeds of 200kt (370km/h).

The "modular sensor integrated structure" would use hydrogen for its buoyancy and solar energy plus regenerative fuel cells for power.

Funded by the US Air Force, the program is currently nearing the end of its phase 2 small business grant. A phase 3 contract, if awarded, would see the research and development firm building a small prototype within two years.