During our poster session we were asked why JLENS was better than drone surveillance (our classmates at Ctrl+F may also have some opinions to share). As you may know, Skywatchdc is a non-partisan organization, so we’ll provide some information and let you do the deciding. Let’s just do a quick comparison of 6 facts about each technology:
- Stay in the air for 14-24 hours before refueling (uses fossil fuels)
- Require specially trained ‘pilots’ on the ground
- Cost up to $12.5 million per drone (total program cost: $11.8 billion)
- May be weaponized to eliminate threats/destroy targets
- Smaller payload capacity
- Able to travel longer distances (1,150 mile range)
- Stays in the air for 30 days at a time without refueling (uses nonflammable helium gas)
- JLENS systems do not require ‘pilots’, only analysts.
- Total program cost of $450 million
- No publicized plans on weaponization of technology
- Huge payload capacity for more sensitive surveillance and communications technologies
- Stationary blimp has surveillance range of 341 miles.
These facts are simply not enough for us to draw any conclusions as each technology serves a very different purpose. When concerned only with domestic surveillance capabilities, JLENS presents a more affordable and more environmentally sustainable solution for ranges that can easily include entire metro areas. Because it can monitor objects in every direction for 30 days at a time and does not include weaponized payloads, it may prove to be more palatable to the general public as a ‘necessary’ defense surveillance technology. In combat zones, however, drones offer a multitude of defensive and offensive possibilites that JLENS cannot. Join the debate and let us know what you think on twitter (@skywatchdc).
Zakaria, Tabassum. “In New Mexico desert, drone pilots learn the new art of war.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters. 23 April 2013. <http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/23/us-usa-security-drones-idUSBRE93M04520130423>
“How Much Does the MQ-9 Reaper Drone Cost?” Time: U.S. Time. 6 Nov. 2012. <http://nation.time.com/2012/11/06/12548710-60/>
“General Atomics: MQ-9 Reaper.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation, Inc. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Atomics_MQ-9_Reaper>