A Zeppelin airship will be pressed into service for the first time in a homeland security role next Tuesday when Paris police use onboard cameras to support emergency services at the Fete de la Musique.

This use for the airship, pioneered by Sofema Groupe, offers significant reductions in cost, noise and environmental impact. As a platform for monitoring equipment, it costs a fifth what a helicopter would.

The company says the Zeppelin NT (Neue Technologie) is an alternative to helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft for roles such as policing, border protection and pollution monitoring.

Jacques Reboul, Sofema chief operating officer, says: "This is a brand new application of this technology. We are responding to the shift in demand from defence to homeland security.


"Fitted with the right equipment, the Zeppelin NT can be used for a number of applications now currently carried out by helicopter or aircraft surveillance."

The organisers of next month's Tour de France will use approximately nine helicopters to monitor the event over a four-week period. Sofema estimates that using the Zeppelin NT, one airship and two helicopters would achieve the same results - cutting flying costs by 90%.

The airship has a maximum speed of 65kt (120km/h) and payload of 1.5 tonnes. Embarkation time is two to three minutes and the airship can stay in the air for up to 24h, although typical mission time is 8h.


As the longest craft at the airshow - 4m longer than the Airbus A380 - it offers 400m2 (4,300ft2) of advertising space, which may offset operational costs.

Reboul says: "The possible applications are virtually unlimited. In respect of homeland security alone there is the potential for at least 30-50 aircraft to be used worldwide in the next eight years."

Among the guests who flew on the Zeppelin NT yesterday was US astronaut David Scott, one of only 12 men to have walked on the Moon. He says: "It's a nice machine with a great pilot. Every means of transport has its own purpose and the Zeppelin is good because it can go slow and you can have a look around."

Source: Flight Daily News