Regular readers know that we've got blimps and balloons on the brain here at Defense Tech HQ. But this is a pretty interesting development, even for those oddballs who are, for some reason, not obsessed by all things lighter-than-air.According to Aerospace Daily, "if upcoming U.S. Air Force experiments are successful, free-floating, 'near space' surveillance balloons could be deployed to the field by late next year."Maj. Robert Blackington of the Air Force Space Battlelab would like to attach a communications or spy sensor package to an unguided, inexpensive balloon. He got the idea, according to the Daily, from "a company that produces weather balloons... The company placed a small digital camera on one of their balloons, flew it to about 100,000 feet and took pictures of the Earth."

Blackington was particularly impressed by a comparison shot between satellite imagery and the balloon imagery. "For $600, they got almost an identical shot with the same resolution," he said.The battlelab plans to test-fly a free floater with a small radio on it later this month, according to Blackington. If the technology proves itself, deployment could take place quickly, he said."My commander keeps saying, we want something in Iraq right now to keep kids from dying," he said. "If it gets proven here, we're thinking we can get it over there by this time next year."
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