Autonomous Dirigible Airships: a Comparative Analysis and Operational Efficiency Evaluation for Logistical Use in Complex Environments
Acton, Brian E.
Taylor, David L.
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The fiscal year 2012 budget resolution forced many agencies to significantly reduce their budget spending and adhere to stricter budgetary policies. The one agency that was hit the hardest was the Department of Defense; it was forced to reduce its budget by $10 trillion over a span of 10 years. With the ongoing War on Terror, the Department of Defense estimated in 2010 that the cost of maintaining a single soldier in a wartime environment grew exponentially to well over $1 million per soldier. The U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan started a major shift, from using manned vehicles to using unmanned vehicles, also known as autonomous vehicles. These autonomous vehicles can be controlled remotely via satellite or radio signals. Currently, the majority of unmanned vehicle usage is in autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that provide air surveillance, reconnaissance, and assault purposes across all services. This major shift to autonomous vehicles has kept a large number of troops out of dangerous environments such as Iraq and Afghanistan, has reduced the risk of losing soldiers lives, and, at the same time, has reduced the costs of keeping soldiers in these dangerous environments for long periods of time. The purpose of this project is to provide a comparative analysis and operational efficiency evaluation of current and in-development airships, or dirigibles, to expand the UAVs capability as a viable logistic support platform. This project demonstrates that airships, manned or unmanned, can reduce costs, particularly important with the current budgetary concerns throughout the Department of Defense. The expanded use of airships for logistics could benefit all services due to their flexibility, lift capability, interoperability, and lower cost.
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