Blimps Over Capitol: Just Hot Air?
Coming soon to a Capitol skyline near you: Giant blimps at 10,000 feet?
The woman at the helm of the House Administration Committee thinks the Capitol needs eyes in the sky, after authorities failed to detect Florida mailman Douglas Hughes’ April 15 gyrocopter flight.
Chairwoman Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., 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. That would mean giant blimps stretching along the Washington, D.C., skyline at 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.
“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?”
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.