Unmanned Airship Gets FAA OK

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The FAA has granted an experimental airworthiness certificate for an unmanned, remotely operated airship, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) announced on Monday. The Skybus 30K airship prototype, which has a volume of 30,000 cubic feet, has been tested at the Loring Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Center in Limestone, Maine, under a contract with the Naval Air Systems Command. The prototype has a 300-pound payload and can carry sensors for operations such as border patrol, port security, search and rescue, wildlife management and sports-event monitoring. The aircraft is operated from a ground-control station. The FAA certificate allows for operation in the Class G airspace near Limestone, Skybus spokesman Tom Hampton told AVweb on Wednesday. The ship can travel at up to 35 knots and remain airborne for 30 to 40 hours. It has faint visual, radar, infrared and acoustic signatures, according to SAIC. It carries a transponder and also has aircraft identification strobes and standard aircraft markings to aid in collision avoidance, Hampton said. Also, a Notice to Airmen is filed when the ship is scheduled to fly.