This Hovering French Drone Is Coming To Watch You From 13 Miles Up

The space division of French aerospace firm Thales Alenia is developing a drone/blimp hybrid called the StratoBus. The company claims many functions for the blimp including observation, meteorology, and telecom, but if you watched the video, you'll be thinking "spy blimp."

The music in the first portion of the video sounds like something right out of the Bourne Identity movies, and brings to mind a chase scene through the alleys of Budapest. Possible observation uses include border surveillance and security, oil spill detection, and recognition of vessels in prevention of piracy and drug trafficking. Because it will operate from a much lower altitude than satellites, it can provide higher resolution photos as well.

In the meteorology field, the StratoBus can provide imaging to help analyze coastal erosion, monitor beach cleanliness, provide atmospheric data, and help manage natural disasters such earthquakes and wildfires.

In the telecom function, the StratoBus can provide mobile internet as well as boost cellular reception to remote areas or temporary short term public events. It can also be used to augment GPS in areas of dense traffic.

Conceptually, it sounds a bit like Google's Project Loon, but this takes it to a much deeper level. Thales says the StratoBus will operate off of solar energy while hovering autonomously at an altitude of 13 miles. The array of solar panels on its braided carbon fiber skin will rotate to follow the sun throughout the day. Its two motors will self-adjust to the wind, keeping the platform completely stationary. The project, backed by Airbus, expects to roll out within five years.