Image 01 Image 03

Coming soon to Capitol Hill… giant surveillance blimps?

Coming soon to Capitol Hill… giant surveillance blimps?

Only the blimp can save us from meddling gyrocopters…

Keep in mind our hard earned money goes to pay people to come up with these ideas.

According to Roll Call’s Hannah Hess, Chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, Rep. Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., the Capitol could really use a few giant surveillance blimps.

In April, intrepid Florida mailman Douglas Hughes successfully landed a gyrocopter on the Capitol’s West Front Lawn. Hughes was gyrocopting around D.C. in protest of the campaign finance system. Authorities were unaware of the gyrocopter’s approach until Park Police spotted the UFO hovering over the Lincoln Memorial about 25 minutes before Hughes landed on the Capitol’s lawn.

Hughes’ gyrocopter appeared on the FAA’s radar as a simple dot. “All available information about the slow moving, irregular symbol made it indistinguishable from other non-aircraft radar tracks,” FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta testified. On the raw-air traffic radar feed, the gyrocopter looked like a flock of birds, weather event, kites or a balloon.

Of course every single action requires a disproportionate government reaction so clearly, the only way to stop unsolicited gyrocopters is to employ a bevy of giant blimps to provide aerial surveillance of the Capitol grounds…

Hess reports Rep. Miller visited, “U.S. Customs and Border Patrol ground stations along the Southern border in January and was amazed at the clarity of the Tethered Aerostat Radar System, or TARS. She is suggesting the “sophisticated technology” might suit the Capitol.”

Imagine the D.C. skyline, littered with giant blimps suspended in air around 10,000 feet. “Deployed by federal law enforcement, the aerostats contain 2,000-pound radars in their bellies, capable of detecting aircraft at a range of 200 miles,” writes Hess.

“They’re going to be using drones to deliver your taco here pretty soon,” Miller said during a May 20 hearing featuring Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine. She suggested the department might be able to get “surplus stuff” from the Department of Defense. “I mean, this is what’s coming, so how can you be able to assess using technology that’s available, as quickly as you can?”

As a side note, can we fast forward to the part where I can order up a drone delivered taco? I eagerly welcome this technological advance.

Other lawmakers take the suggestion of jumbo aeronautic balloons seriously, pointing to Hughes’ flight as justification for investing more money into surveillance of Washington’s skies.

Both Republicans and Democrats have been “very clear” to federal law enforcement authorities that they want “anybody who has anything to do with airspace to avail themselves to the most sophisticated technology,” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“We’re going to hold their feet to the fire. I think they are doing the best they can, but I think what this has shown is it shows you where you’re vulnerable,” Cummings continued. “There are always copycats.”

Hughes will be back in D.C. court on June 22, facing two felony charges and four misdemeanors. He told reporters last week he believes if his flight exposed any security risks, they have been fixed.

…“Drones are just an exploding technology,” she [Rep. Miller] said in a follow-up interview, citing Amazon’s proposed delivery service, as well as agricultural drones. “You’re not putting the toothpaste back in the tube — it’s coming. So, for all the good things that they can do, there’s also a security risk.”

Reportedly, Capitol Police are checking out the airborne technology that’s already in use near Baltimore.

Giant surveillance blimps. Who would’ve thought it would come to this?

Follow Kemberlee Kaye on Twitter


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.


Hillary is big enough for this job, but can she fly without the broom?.

As part of my real job, I work with these kinds of systems. They are definitely *not* just hot air, though they have their limitations. I am disappointed to see the generally high level of discourse on this site brought down by a rush to judgment.

    Tyrconnell in reply to traversaro. | May 27, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    Gotta agree with you, folks hear “Blimp” and go into gigglesnort mode.

    Valerie in reply to traversaro. | May 27, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    Neither lawyers nor legislators are very knowledgeable about nor enamored of every new technology. Both groups, however, are well acquainted the the concepts of profligate spending on unripe technology and governmental abuse of power.

    BuckIV in reply to traversaro. | May 27, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    In the middle of watching “Fringe” on Netflix. I don’t trust blimps.

    xdevildog in reply to traversaro. | May 27, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    Lighter than air craft aren’t the issue. It’s the rush to play political CYA when some loon goes for his fifteen minutes of fame in a gyrocopter. To me it’s more of business as usual protecting a place that – outside of the Smithsonian museums, Arlington National Cemetery, and a couple of the war memorials – could really benefit from the Gen. Curtis LeMay method of aerial interaction. (You young pups will have to look it up.)

Mt $0.02 – This stunt exposed a vulnerability that the Gov is scrambling to cover.

    Tyrconnell in reply to Twanger. | May 27, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    Or trying to correct perhaps?

    Ragspierre in reply to Twanger. | May 27, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    I dunno that this implicates a plethora of blimps darkening the sky.

    A blimp with “look down” tech seems like a pretty good idea to me, given the target valuesssssss of various things in the D.C. loop.

      platypus in reply to Ragspierre. | May 29, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      Plus blimps are very quiet and do not need to use energy to stay up. Those just happen to be the biggest drawbacks of drones. IIRC, a blimp with the right skin could even masquerade as a low cloud.

Gee, really smart politicians would have held out for the dome!

So … radar failed to alert Washington that it was about to be invaded by a gyrocopter … but another radar deployed in a much more expensive way will protect the town from drone-delivered tacos.


Henry Hawkins | May 27, 2015 at 8:05 pm

Federal government drones and blimps might enter North Carolina, but they will not leave North Carolina.

Surveillance problem solved. Hey, it’s a “tethered” system; it’s gotta tie down somewhere. 😉

On a more serious note, though: is this really what it’s come to? Some guy lands an ultra-light on someone’s front lawn, and we have to go full “Big Brother” surveillance-from-the-sky mode? How many blimps are we talking about? Will they be close enough to each other to get tangled? What’s the plan for hurricanes (or other inclement weather)? Who or what will be displaced to make room for the docking/tethering stations?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Are folks prepared for occasional crashes and other incidents? Tethers can break, and moorings can be ripped out in bad weather, even when the blimps are reeled in.

Frankly, I’d prefer surveillance be focused inside those smoke-filled rooms.

Here are a couple of links about an aerostat incident in my area:

Good Lord, these idiots don’t realize they’ve copied the “Giant Boob” scene from Woody Allen’s “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask”!

Will Colonel Blimp lead the barrage balloon battalion?

Colonel Blimp: “Gad, Sir! Mr Lansbury is right. The League of Nations should insist on peace — except of course in the case of war.”, or: “Gad, Sir! Lord Bunk is right. The government is marching over the edge of an abyss, and the nation must march solidly behind them.”

I’d like to see some kinda system with Death Rays.

It is 2015.