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German-U.S. Company to Loft Segmented, Self-Steering Airship

It's a flying tadpole! It's a floating snake! It's a... what the heck is that thing?

3 min read

26 August 2009—Weather permitting, a new type of aerial robot will take to the skies over Stuttgart, Germany, next week. Looking like something from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the new segmented airship is actually a serious contender for border security, emergency and battlefield communications, and other applications that call for long-duration, high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Unlike dirigibles, blimps, and other aircraft in the ”lighter than air” category, the new airship isn’t piloted or controlled remotely: From takeoff through landing, its flight control is entirely autonomous. No other airship has such a capability, says Bernd Kröplin, a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Stuttgart and one of the airship’s inventors.

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Economics Drives Ray-Gun Resurgence

Laser weapons, cheaper by the shot, should work well against drones and cruise missiles

4 min read
In an artist’s rendering, a truck is shown with five sets of wheels—two sets for the cab, the rest for the trailer—and a box on the top of the trailer, from which a red ray is projected on an angle, upward, ending in the silhouette of an airplane, which is being destroyed

Lockheed Martin's laser packs up to 300 kilowatts—enough to fry a drone or a plane.

Lockheed Martin

The technical challenge of missile defense has been compared with that of hitting a bullet with a bullet. Then there is the still tougher economic challenge of using an expensive interceptor to kill a cheaper target—like hitting a lead bullet with a golden one.

Maybe trouble and money could be saved by shooting down such targets with a laser. Once the system was designed, built, and paid for, the cost per shot would be low. Such considerations led planners at the Pentagon to seek a solution from Lockheed Martin, which has just delivered a 300-kilowatt laser to the U.S. Army. The new weapon combines the output of a large bundle of fiber lasers of varying frequencies to form a single beam of white light. This laser has been undergoing tests in the lab, and it should see its first field trials sometime in 2023. General Atomics, a military contractor in San Diego, is also developing a laser of this power for the Army based on what’s known as the distributed-gain design, which has a single aperture.

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