Civic News
Federal government / Technology

Aberdeen surveillance blimp reported missing

Local fire officials say one of the two JLENS blimps is missing. It seems to have come off the tether that keeps it anchored to the ground. (Check below for updates.)

The first JLENS aerostat, before it was launched above Baltimore. (Photo courtesy of Raytheon Corporation)
This story is being continuously updated.

Local fire officials are reporting that one of the two surveillance blimps that have been flying above the Baltimore area is missing.
According to the Joppa Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company, the blimp — which is technically called an aerostat since it is attached to the ground — came off its tether.
Officials launched a search for the 242-foot blimp, and asked for the public’s help in locating it.
The two blimps, which are easily visible in Baltimore city to the northeast on a clear day, are part of a military program to test the JLENS surveillance system with defense contractor Raytheon. The blimps, which fly at 10,000 feet, are designed to work in tandem and communicate with North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to keep an eye out for cruise missiles, enemy planes and other potential unfriendly aircraft.
Watch this space for updates.
Update (10/28/15, 1:57 p.m.)
NORAD has issued a statement saying that the blimp was located flying at about 16,000 feet over Pennsylvania at around 1:30 p.m. Two F-16 fighter jets are monitoring the wandering aerostat, NORAD reports.
The blimps, which are unmanned, contain radar and wide-area surveillance systems.
We may have a llama situation on our hands.
Update (10/28/15, 2:15 p.m.)
Aberdeen Proving Ground also issued a statement with a few more details. The blimp broke free from its mooring at 11:54 a.m. About 6,700 feet of tether are attached to the blimp.
“People are warned to keep a safe distance from the airship and tether as contact with them may present significant danger,” the statement reads.
About that tether…

Update (10/28/15, 2:46 p.m.)
The saga of the wandering aerostat may be winding to a close.
Multiple reports suggest the blimp is slowly coming down over Bloomsburg, Pa.
The aerostat’s dangling, 6,700-foot tether may even be causing power outages in the area.

Update (10/28/15, 3:30 p.m.)
It looks like the blimp is on the ground.
The blimp came back to Earth in a non-populated area, and no injuries were reported.

For those scoring at home, that’s a roughly 140-mile voyage from Aberdeen to Central Pennsylvania:

Companies: Raytheon / U.S. Government

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