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Helikites Revolutionise Unmanned Warfare
1st Oct 2019. Ref: 03/19

NATO’s New Helikites Could Revolutionise Unmanned Warfare

New Helikite airborne platforms have proven they can increase the operational coverage area of unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) by over ten times.


With this last over-the-horizon communications hurdle overcome, USVs can now become highly effective, independent naval forces, able to patrol the oceans and protect shipping, with or without manned naval support ships in the area.  

NATO REPMUS19 Unmanned Naval Exercise

During this September 2019 exercise in Portugal, compact, all-weather Helikites flew constantly to high altitudes, whilst lifting MANET radios to allow streaming video and broadband comms 53km out to sea. During the exercise, the USVs were able to be monitored and controlled in the ops room via the constant video stream. The USVs successfully intercepted a manned vessel simulating an attack on a US frigate. Helikites also provided real-time video feed from a Puma UAV down to Portuguese marines storming a beach and simulating an attack on an enemy building. The Helikites were able to accommodate various radios and antennas without any issues. Rapid changes of radio equipment and antennas were easily enabled. The Helikites constantly flew up to 450ft in winds from nil to 35 mph on the exposed ‘Coast of Gales’ at Troia, Portugal, with no problems. Far higher altitudes were possible but not required.

Future Significance

Worldwide, the deployment of all types of unmanned systems have been delayed for decades by a lack of reliable over-the-horizon radio relay. All other forms of airborne platform, such as UAVs, satellites, balloons or parafoil kites have failed to give the necessary communications capability because they were not persistent enough, were unreliable, or too expensive. In stark contrast, Helikites have proved themselves to be excellent radio relay platforms, capable of autonomously flying themselves from land, ships, small boats and USVs in all weathers with ease.

Conflict areas such as the Arabian Gulf, Black Sea and South China Sea can now be controlled using unmanned maritime vessels operated via high altitude Helikites flying indefinitely for minimal cost. These unmanned vessels can be transported to the area by aircraft, enabling a powerful naval force to be deployed to a conflict zone within hours instead of the weeks it takes at present for manned ships to arrive.

There will be no risk to sailors from anti-ship missiles because the constant video streaming from long ranges from the high altitude Helikites allows the unmanned vessels to be piloted safely from secret shore bases. Unmanned vessels can operate on the surface, or underwater, for many weeks without re-fuelling. They are exceptionally hard to detect and uneconomical to destroy with expensive missiles or manned ships. This development immediately enables massive force multiplication for minimal cost. It may force significant changes in future naval hardware, manpower and tactics.

About Allsopp Helikites Limited
Allsopp Helikites Ltd is a designer and manufacturer of advanced lighter-than-air, miniature, all-weather aerostat systems. The company delivers a full range of products including Helikite aerostats, Helibases, Helikite winches, flying line, video surveillance cameras, aerial photographic equipment, radio-relay systems, Jungle Marker Helikites, balloon cut-down devices, helium, and aerostat trailers. Allsopp Helikites Ltd is a privately owned SME operating from its aerostat test flying base in Dorset, England.

For further information or photographic images please contact:

Sandy Allsopp, Allsopp Helikites Ltd
Tel: +44 (0)01425 654 967


Issued by:

Allsopp Helikites Ltd, Unit 1&2 Fordingbridge Business Park, Ashford Rd, Fordingbridge, Hampshire, SP6  1BD, England.
Tel: +44 (0)01425 654 967 E-mail:

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