Carolina Unmanned Vehicles, Inc. (CUV), Raleigh North Carolina, announces award of a Navy
Phase I Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) contract to develop a new version of their
Lightweight Aerostat System (LAS). The new LAS, to carry a Deployable Communications
Network payload, and called LAS-DCN, is to be designed for deployment from the new Navy
small combatant, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). The LCS is a revolutionary warship designed
to operate close to shore by use of a variety of unmanned underwater, (water) surface, ground,
and air vehicles (respectively, UUVs, USVs, UGVs, and UAVs). CUV’s development of LASDCN
will provide an inexpensive, long endurance reliable communications relay capability
among these various unmanned platforms, dispersed over many miles of ocean and land.

The LAS-DCN consists of a communications relay payload attached under a small specially
designed tethered blimp, called a Helikite, and a Carrier that stores the Helikite and the required
winch, sensors and helium tanks. The LAS-DCN blimp can fly at several thousand feet altitude
for low cost, long term test communications relay coverage of large areas. LAS-DCN can
provide relay coverage for 24 hours a day for a week or more without maintenance or downtime.
Ordinary aerostats cannot operate in high winds unless made quite large, which would not make
them suitable for the LCS or its unmanned platforms. LAS uses the patented Helikite lifting
aerostat, produced by Allsopp Helikites Ltd. of Great Britain, that has lifting surfaces that
generate aerodynamic lift to support the blimp in winds which drive traditional designs into the
ground. The LAS-DCN will be able to be launched in 30 mph winds and to continue operations
in 50 mph wind. With the Helikite, LAS can be made smaller and more mobile than traditional
aerostat systems yet still operate in much higher winds, improving mobility, mission utility and
capability in adverse weather.

Versions of LAS are suitable for surveillance / security, communications relay and research
missions for Defense and Homeland Security missions. It operates for weeks at a time at a
fraction of the cost of comparable aircraft or Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV). CUV has
previously developed versions of LAS for the USAF, Sandia National Laboratories, and a large
defense contractor.

By Gary Mortimer

Founder and Editor of sUAS News | Gary Mortimer has been a commercial balloon pilot for 25 years and also flies full-size helicopters. Prior to that, he made tea and coffee in air traffic control towers across the UK as a member of the Royal Air Force.