Patrick Garrett, a defense analyst with GlobalSecurity.org in Alexandria, Va., admits having an around-the-clock aerial surveillance platform would be a great asset to homeland defense. But he wonders if such airship platforms would run afoul of legal constrains on domestic spying.
And blimps aren't exactly hardened for combat roles, either.
"They're not durable and it's not like you can hide it while it's in the sky," says Garrett. "All you have to do is point and shoot and that's all she wrote."
Still, ONR's Huett says the LASH blimp has already been put to good use. Earlier this year, it was used to help track migrating right whales. The information was sent in real-time to biologists and oceanographers keeping tabs on the endangered species.
And researchers with the program say that they hope to tweak the LASH blimp a bit further this year.
With roughly $3.7 million in further funding for the rest of the year, STI says the blimp is currently on its way to San Diego. Once there, STI and ONR will work with U.S. Navy SEALs to see if LASH is powerful enough to detect underwater mines such as ones that would be planted in shipping harbors by enemy divers.