Civic News
Federal government / Technology

Surveillance blimp takes flight over Baltimore

Another one will be tested in early 2015.

The first JLENS aerostat, before it was launched above Baltimore. (Photo courtesy of Raytheon Corporation)

Now that they’re done tracking Santa for the year, NORAD can buckle down and focus on their primary spy in the sky.
Just before the end of 2014, the U.S. Army launched a giant blimp over the Aberdeen Proving Ground. Developed by Raytheon, the 250-foot Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor (JLENS) is flying at 10,000 feet above Baltimore. It can stay aloft for a month.
Technically called an aerostat since it is tethered to the ground, JLENS is equipped with radar that is designed to detect cruise missiles, drones and any other potentially threatening aircraft. Currently in a three-year testing period, the Army is primarily concerned with defending Washington, D.C., but JLENS can patrol an area the size of Texas. In East Coast terms, that means they system will cover from upstate New York to Norfolk, Va.
“JLENS can detect potential threats at extremely long ranges, giving North American Aerospace Defense Command [NORAD] more time to make decisions and more space to react appropriately,” Dave Gulla, vice president of Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems’ Global Integrated Sensors division, said in a statement.
Raytheon will deploy a second aerostat in early 2015. When the billion-dollar JLENS system is fully functional, the two blimps work together and share information with NORAD. Ideally, the info would then be used to bring down the cruise missile or drone.
The two blimps have different radars. “It is based on who can get the best shot possible,” Maj. Gen. Glenn Bramhall said during a press briefing on Dec. 17.
While they’re being called surveillance blimps, JLENS isn’t equipped with cameras or video equipment. And, despite the proximity to Fort Meade, the NSA isn’t involved (at least as far as we know).
“Its radars cannot detect people,” said Army Capt. Matt Villa.

Companies: Raytheon / U.S. Government

Before you go...

Please consider supporting to keep our independent journalism strong. Unlike most business-focused media outlets, we don’t have a paywall. Instead, we count on your personal and organizational support.

Our services Preferred partners The journalism fund

Join our growing Slack community

Join 5,000 tech professionals and entrepreneurs in our community Slack today!


Major state funding boost means more Maryland college students can get tech internships

Cal Ripken Jr. essay: The MLB legend explains his drive to build STEM centers in schools across the nation

From quantum to biotech, meet this year’s Maryland Tech Council ICON nominees

He started at Neya as an intern. 10 years later, he’s director of robotics — and loving life

Technically Media