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BlimpsCompact aerostat offers affordable, portable surveillance solution

Published 23 September 2013

Columbia, Maryland-based TCOM last week unveiled its newest aerostat platform, the 12M Tactical Aerostat. The system is designed to meet the needs of soldiers and first responders who require a compact, affordable, persistent surveillance solution which can be transported anywhere, rapidly deployed, and easily retrieved.

The TCOM 12M platform provides affordable persistent surveillance // Source: tcomlp.com

Columbia, Maryland-based TCOM last week unveiled its newest aerostat platform, the 12M Tactical Aerostat. The system is designed to meet the needs of soldiers and first responders who require a compact, affordable, persistent surveillance solution which can be transported anywhere, rapidly deployed, and easily retrieved. The company says the new 12M system is the most compact tactical aerostat in TCOM’s line of aerostat platforms, incorporating design innovations from the company’s battlefield-proven 17M and 22M platforms. The 12M is suitable for time-critical surveillance missions, when operators need to improve or restore domain awareness in their area of responsibility.

The 12M Tactical Aerostat is an essential tool for anyone who needs reliable surveillance or communications rapidly,” said TCOM president Ron Bendlin. “The compact size and portability allows for quick deployment, and the extended range means that operators are able to obtain actionable information when they need it most.”

The company says that like its 17M, the 12M aerostat system is versatile and simple to operate. The system can be quickly deployed from a vehicle with minimal manning and is easily transported in a single 7.5’x7.5’x6.5’ container.  The system’s mooring station is built on a versatile base which uses ISO corners to standardize mounting on various platforms or directly on the ground.

With a standard tether length to support operational altitude of 1,000 feet, the 12M Tactical Aerostat can accommodate a variety of payloads up to 60 lbs. from communications equipment to video and infrared cameras. It is currently being integrated with the Broadband Meshable Data Link (BMDL) and a stabilized turret camera for specific demonstrations. The BMDL will relay video, audio, and GPS data through a radio system mounted on the aerostat to extend the usable range far beyond that of a tactical, terrestrial antenna. The stabilized turret camera can be controlled by operators on the ground or from the mooring system using a joystick — with a surveillance area enhanced by the operational altitude of the 12M.

The company says the system is affordable, with a low hourly operating cost compared to other manned and unmanned aerial surveillance systems.

“This capability is a force multiplier for the expeditionary forces. I would have liked to have deployed with it when I was forward deployed,” stated Lieutenant General USMC (Retired) Jan Huly.

A complete 12M system will be on display at the Modern day Marine Military Expo, 24-26 September 2013, in Quantico, Virginia where TCOM will fly a fully operational unit and display a road march ready Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) carrying a fully “packed out” 12M system.