Providing intelligent and cost-effective solutions to surveil borders is essential to meeting our nation’s security needs.
TCOM’s Tactical Aerostats, used by Homeland Security on the border with Mexico as well as international zones, outperform other solutions based on their ability to carry a wide variety of payloads to altitudes in excess of 1,000 ft. above mean sea level (AMSL) with station time measured in weeks not hours.
The higher altitude enhances border/port security surveillance capabilities by providing a better overall picture of the landscape, longer coverage for interoperable communications support, as well as enabling HD EO/IR of much better quality.
These sensors and their data processors often serve as the eyes of deployed maritime border security.
As EO/IR sensors are shrinking in size, weight, and power consumption (SWaP), border security and military personnel are increasingly utilizing lighter-than-air (LTA) aerostats, instead of costly manned aircraft.
By doing so, greater distance and better operating conditions will deliver commanders with higher flexibility in achieving their persistent surveillance border security objectives.
Moreover, TCOM’s Tactical Aerostat Systems need little time to deploy and have lower maintenance requirements at a substantially lower hourly operational cost than conventional aircraft and drones.
The versatility of an aerostat system makes it ideal for responding to requirements or threats that change rapidly.
A system that is fully transportable and can be easily relocated with no site preparation.
Although fully mature, a system that can be shaped to better meet the needs of the client.
A system that can incorporate additional capabilities such as passive surveillance and remote data linking.
(TCOM’s 12M aerostat system is the most compact and portable solution of its kind available today. The 12M offers rapid deployment and retrieval, enabling operators in the field to obtain actionable surveillance data faster than ever before. Courtesy of TCOM, LP, and YouTube.)
For over 45 years, TCOM has been at the forefront of innovative developments in the tethered aerostat and airship industry.
TCOM has earned the title of the “Lighter-Than-Air Company” because it is wholly dedicated to the design, production, and operation of LTA vehicles.
TCOM’s aerostats are the leaders in overall system availability, reliability, ease of operation and have operated for more years in more demanding environments than any other aerostats ever produced.
Since its inception, TCOM has designed numerous aerostats with various shapes of envelopes, including tri-fins, four fins (common airship design) and spherical (similar to Winch Aerostat Small Platform or WASP).
The envelope is a key component of an aerostat and each design has its own advantages and disadvantages.
TCOM has also conducted numerous spherical and aerodynamic aerostat studies using its proprietary flight analysis and nonlinear dynamic simulation tools.
Both tools are recognized by the FAA and provide a wide range of studies including tether tensions, winch tension, aerostat sizing, blow down performance, weight and balance effects and environmental simulations.
Although the spherical shape is indeed the most economical for lifting a specified weight in zero wind, it has remarkably poor aerodynamics.
Over time TCOM found the inverted-y tri fin aerostat shape to be optimal for stability, endurance, and aerodynamic performance, and as a result, it is the standard shape for TCOM’s latest designs.
TCOM’s experience indicates that spherical designs have limited utility.
Despite the potentially low acquisition cost of spheres, their performance is highly susceptible to winds even with the addition of provisions like scoops.
The lack of a ballonet and pressure management system in many spherical designs also makes them vulnerable to weather changes.
The following paragraphs illustrate how the spherical design limitations compare to an aerodynamically shaped aerostat.
(The TCOM 17M Tactical Class Aerostat is a versatile, battle-proven, rapid deployment, persistent surveillance system. Equipped to detect and track targets even in the most challenging terrain, the TCOM 17M aerostat is a compact yet powerful solution to wide area ground surveillance needs. Courtesy of TCOM, LP, and YouTube.)
Aerodynamic Performance Advantage
During flight, there are many forces acting on the aerostat.
Stability is the quality possessed by the aerostat that allows it to respond to all of the influences of wind and weather without radical departures from normal flight.
The more resistant the aerostat is to disrupt influences from the environment, the more stable the aerostat.
When it comes to operating year-round, TCOM believes that the performance of its aerostats has several advantages over that of spherical design.
One such advantage is the significant loss in altitude and increase in horizontal displacement that spherical balloons exhibit relative to an aerodynamically shaped aerostat as a result of operational winds.
The aerodynamic shape of TCOM’s aerostats actually creates lift and permits them to fly as wind speed increases.
This feature results in an additional lift that counteracts the increased drag and significantly reduces the altitude loss in high winds.
By contrast, the spherical design relies solely on a buoyant lift and its loss in altitude is more pronounced at higher wind speeds since there is no aerodynamic lift force to compensate for the drag forces.
In addition, a scoop can add some lift to the spherical design, but also adds significant drag.
Experience has also indicated that significant tether and winch damage on a spherical system can occur immediately after a strong wind event ceases and the aerostat abruptly ascends to higher altitudes.
The aerodynamic shape of an aerostat allows it to maintain a stable platform for optimal payload performance through various levels of aerodynamic turbulence.
Studies have even shown that steady airflow around a sphere can induce less turbulence on the back side, thus less fluttering, by making the shape into more of a teardrop, i.e., similar to an aerostat’s shape.
Pressure Management Advantage
Another advantage of TCOM’s aerostats is its pressure management system. Managing the gas pressure maintains the hull integrity throughout the flight envelope.
Although some spherical aerostats are equipped with simple helium pressure relief capability, they often lack a means of restoring pressure.
A vehicle that relies on super pressurization alone is flaccid during ascent and descent and often during level flight with large temperature excursions.
In a flaccid state, a vehicle can be catastrophically damaged from sudden wind gusts particularly during launch and recovery.
On the ground, a flaccid aerostat cannot be simply moored and must be deflated causing unnecessary and unexpected lifting gas management issues.
Keeping an aerostat aloft in an operational state is pivotal in achieving high availability. TCOM’s 17M™ can remain aloft for up to seven days under standard pressure and temperate conditions.
In comparison, the sphere’s ability to remain aloft is less than half that of the 17M™. Furthermore, in evaluating availability, it is also important to consider an aerostat’s effectiveness while aloft.
As previously discussed, the operating altitude of spherical designs is significantly reduced by moderate winds and turbulence, dramatically diminishing a sphere’s availability and rendering it operationally useless even though it is aloft in principle.
TCOM aerostats provide a much greater availability at mission altitude and provide greater safety to the aerostat, its crew, and payload across all weather conditions.
Another significant discriminator of TCOM’s aerostats is the weathervaning mooring system, a design which ensures that the aerodynamically shaped aerostat will always point into the wind reducing its wind profile and, thereby, its drag.
Once the high wind condition has ceased the system is immediately available for mission operations.
Spherical or aerodynamic aerostats with lower wind survival capability will require deflation and storage during conditions when high winds are forecasted.
Re-inflation of the aerostat can typically only be conducted in very low wind conditions and may require multiple days waiting for a suitable weather window.
Mission Effectiveness Advantage
Adopting a platform that does not provide effective surveillance coverage during high temperature and windy conditions leaves the operator potentially vulnerable to enemy operation.
TCOM’s experience indicates that enemy combatants are quick to assess the coverage afforded by a surveillance platform and will attempt to operate during periods when coverage is lacking.
The high availability of TCOM’s aerostats significantly reduces this opportunity for the enemy by maintaining the payload at operational altitude even under these conditions.
Spherical designs, on the other hand, can experience severe altitude loss during periods of moderate winds and turbulence and high temperatures, essentially reducing the mission effectiveness.
For missions that allow the operator little flexibility to pick the weather in which to fly, such as military and emergency response missions, an aerodynamically shaped aerostat will provide a much greater availability at mission altitude and provide greater safety to the aerostat, its crew, and payload across all weather conditions.
TCOM, LP, Takes Platinum in the 2018 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Program
Best Long Range Persistent Surveillance Solution
Persistent Surveillance Aerostats
*TCOM LP was also a 2017 ‘ASTORS’ Platinum Award Winner
The Annual ‘ASTORS’ Awards Program is specifically designed to honor distinguished government and vendor solutions that deliver enhanced value, benefit and intelligence to end users in a variety of government, homeland security and public safety vertical markets.
Over 130 distinguished guests representing National, State and Local Governments, and Industry Leading Corporate Firms, gathered from across North America, Europe and the Middle East to be honored among their peers in their respective fields which included:
- The Department of Homeland Security
- The Federal Protective Service (FPS)
- Argonne National Laboratory
- The Department of Homeland Security
- The Department of Justice
- The Security Exchange Commission Office of Personnel Management
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection
- Viasat, Hanwha Techwin, Lenel, Konica Minolta Business Solutions, Verint, Canon U.S.A., BriefCam, Pivot3, Milestone Systems, Allied Universal, Ameristar Perimeter Security and More!
The Annual ‘ASTORS’ Awards is the preeminent U.S. Homeland Security Awards Program highlighting the most cutting-edge and forward-thinking security solutions coming onto the market today, to ensure our readers have the information they need to stay ahead of the competition, and keep our Nation safe – one facility, street, and city at a time.
The 2018 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Program was Proudly Sponsored by ATI Systems, Attivo Networks, Automatic Systems, Desktop Alert, and Royal Holdings Technologies.
Early Bird Nominations are now being accepted for the 2019 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland SecurityAwards at https://americansecuritytoday.com/ast-awards/.
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