Denver residents might have noticed a curious looking blimp hovering above I-25 and 70th Avenue. The massive 1,600-cubic-foot blimp is part of a three-day evaluation by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to monitor traffic and to assist with auto accidents.
By using cameras and hovering 400 feet above traffic, the unmanned blimp can help transportation officials assess traffic flow in Denver. The blimp, developed by SkySentry LLC, is what is known as an aerostat, a tethered airship that is part balloon and part kite. SkySentry refers to its advanced blimp as the “Tactically Expedient Aerostat (TEA)”.
If the evaluation is successful, CDOT hopes to reduce the number of cameras currently used to monitor traffic throughout the state. At $50,000 apiece, aerostats are far less expensive than the existing array of cameras currently in use by CDOT. In addition to low costs, aerostats can allow transportation officials to monitor areas normal cameras cannot.
CDOT is the first transportation agency in the country to test traffic-monitoring aerostats. Some cities in the U.S., such as Detroit, have explored the idea of joining Colorado in using aerostats to monitor traffic and help emergency responders assist with accidents.
What Are Aerostats?
Blimps like TEA are nothing new, and aerostats have already been widely tested by law enforcement agencies and the defense industry. Lockheed Martin recently collaborated with the U.S. Army to develop an aerostat for the Department of Homeland Security. In fact, the U.S. Army uses aerostats to identify threats and track insurgents.
With multiple uses for law enforcement and transportation agencies, it is likely that the public can expect to see more aerostats fill the sky in the near future.
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