Stratobus: Why this stratospheric airship is already being called a “Swiss knife” in the sky
Piracy, shipwrecks, and haze from bush fires in Sumatra are just some of the dangers awaiting ships plying the straits of Malacca. Patrolling the narrow, congested straits, the busiest shipping channel in the world, has long been a problem for regional navies.
Soon they will receive help from an unlikely place: at an altitude of about 20 kilometers in the lower layer of the stratosphere. This is where Thales Alenia Space’ new lighter-than-air High Altitude Pseudo Satellite, autonomous stratospheric airship, called StratobusTM, will be positioned. From there it will carry out missions of surveillance that will facilitate coordinated law enforcement, among other eye-in-the sky reporting to support earth-bound activities of all types.
StratobusTM can survey the ground to several 100 km away, for precise, permanent monitoring and surveillance. Winds at its stationary altitude are moderate and stable, allowing the airship to remain in place through its electric propulsion system.
Mid-way between a drone and a satellite, the Stratobus is cost-efficient as it needs no launcher and operates using only solar energy and green technologies. It is first positioned through electrical propulsion. Among the breakthrough technologies that makes the Stratobus TM possible: a lightweight, watertight, highly resistant envelope developed by Airstar Aeropace
The Stratobus is the perfect complement to satellites,” says StratobusTMProduct Line manager Jean-Philippe Chessel, from Thales Alenia Space. “You can add on sensors, captors, and other technologies, making it a kind of “Swiss knife of innovation in the sky.
Because it is stationary, the Stratobus TM can offer the permanent regional coverage that moving drones and observation satellites cannot. In addition to surveillance of borders or high-value sites such as offshore platforms, the Stratobus TM can carry out other missions on land or at sea, including security (the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking), environmental monitoring (forest fires, soil erosion, pollution), telecommunications (Internet, 4G/5G) and navigation (GPS local reinforcement).