When it comes to the battlefield, network and communications are crucial. However, being always connected to a communications network isn’t always the case. In remote battlegrounds, especially across enemy lines, forces sometimes have difficulties connecting to networks. Because of this, militaries are continuously looking for devices to help improve their network connections. One device doing this is the Helikite aerostat.
As its name may hint, the Helikite is part helium balloon and part kite, this is to provide the kite with lift and stability. Tethered to the ground, the Helikite is capable of lifting a payload up 7,000 feet in the air. Payloads could include anything from video cameras and sensors to communications relays and targeting systems.
The British and American military have both tested the Helikite and last September, NATO too has tested the Helikite as part of an exercise in Portugal, according to C4isrnet.com.
The Helikite in the NATO exercise carried network relays that expand the connection between unmanned drones and their human operators. The Helikite also carried a communications link to extend the distance between unmanned vessels and their operators.
Militaries have been using lighter-than-air vehicles for their operations for decades. However there is a drawback for using balloons in warfare, they tend to be destroyed easily. However unlike World War 1 Era surveillance balloons and zeppelin bombers, the Helikite is unmanned and fairly cheap, thus making it relatively expendable.
Although since the balloon is so high up, most small firearms wouldn’t even be able to damage it.
Technologies such as the Helikite help forces gain better network coverage, granting them better communications, situational awareness, and even firepower.