Skywatchdc in the Huffington Post!

Check out this Huffington Post Op-Ed on the HuffPo DC blog by Skywatchdc team-member Tyler Lopez:

“When Raytheon‘s two massive JLENS aerostats deploy over Washington, D.C. next year, they will usher in a new era for surveillance technology in the United States. While many privacy activists have their sights set on military drones and internet-based surveillance programs, the Army is set to begin testing a system capable of monitoring airspace for 340 miles in every direction — and capable of monitoring boats, vehicles, and possibly people on the ground below.”

Full Story: SkywatchDC in Huffington Post Op-Ed


The JLENS aerostat system: Coming to the DC region in September 2013

Aberdeen Proving Ground

Image from Skywatchdc

Skywatchdc is committed to publicizing the planned deployment of Raytheon’s JLENS aerostat system by the U.S. Army to the Aberdeen Proving Ground on Maryland’s east coast in September 2013. In pursuit of that goal, Skywatchdc wrote a final report summarizing the materials that have been shared through our website, social media, poster and brochure, and video. Please follow the link below to our report.

Skywatchdc Final Report

To help with the visualization of a 341 mile radar range from 10,000 feet above the Aberdeen Proving Ground, we have adapted the following map from Google Maps.

Image from Google Maps

Image from Google Maps

Financial Breakdown: A Very Expensive Aerostat?

JLENS great background from Raytheon

Image from Raytheon

This is the second blog in our ‘Q&As from the Poster Session’ series.

Given that the JLENS project will be launched less than six months from now, many citizens and community members may have questions regarding the financial agenda of JLENS. When Skywatchdc presented at Georgetown University  last week, we received a number of questions pertaining to the cost and allocation of funds. Part of our goal is to make useful information about the JLENS project available to the general public.

Jim Wolf states in a Reuters article that the $450 million project will cover the cost of two ‘twin’ aerostats that make up the system. (See this Skywatchdc post which discusses the system in further detail). There appears to be limited data or information related to specific budgetary amounts of the JLENS project, which may be due to the classified nature of the military project.

The JLENS project was supposed to be more robust than it is currently. According to Bloomberg, 32 surveillance-capable aerostats were supposed to be developed in 2007, at a cost of $6 billion. By 2012, only four aerostats were ready for full testing and faced initial issues such as poor target recognition and limited identification capabilities. The article speculates that this may be a reason why only two aerostats are being unveiled in 2013. The official reason is the deep budget cuts. Implementing two areostats reduces the costs signifcantly compared to implementing 32. However, the testing provides Raytheon and the U.S. Army the opportunity to fix any issues during the three years JLENS is deployed in Maryland and then improve the system should it be decided to establish more aerostat technologies in the region.

According to Raytheon’s JLENS website, this project is an “affordable defense from real world threats.” Raytheon, a public-traded company, has a stock value currently of $56.94 per share (at the time of this writing) and works closely with the military. The company’s net sales totaled $24.4 billion in 2012.

Wolf, Jim.  “Blimps to bolster Washington’s air shield in test.” Reuters. 1 Feb 2013. <;

Berfield, Susan. “Raytheon Missile-Seeking Blimp to Get Test Run Guarding Capital.” Bloomberg. Bloomberg L.P. 28 Feb. 2013. <;

“JLENS.” Raytheon. Raytheon Company. 2013. <;

Putting JLENS in Perspective

JLENS and People

Image from PRNewswire

Do you hear the numbers 243 feet and 74 meters and can’t visualize how large that actually is?  Here are some things that are similarly sized.

Goodyear Blimo

Image from Autoblog


The new Goodyear blimp, which will be a semi-rigid airship with an internal frame in the new iteration and is currently under construction, will be 246 feet, 3 feet longer than a JLENS aerostat (and 50 feet longer than the previous blimp).



Image from Reuters

Image from Reuters


A kunafa pastry made in Nablus in 2009 by Palestinian bakers out of vermicelli, syrup, and cheese and submitted for review to the Guinness Book of World Records was 74 meters long or 243 feet.




The Kaga Kannon statue of Kaga (Guanyin), a bodhisvatta, in Kaga, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, stands at 73 meters or 240 feet tall, just three feet shorter than a JLENS aerostat.



Image from the German Federal Archive

Image from the German Federal Archive



The men’s world record discus throw as recognized by the International Association of Athletic Federations, held by Jurgen Schult of East Germany, is 74.08 meters (approx. 243 feet).

This is the first blog in the ‘Q&A’s from the Poster Session’ series.

Skywatchdc Presentation

Today, Skywatchdc gave a seven-minute presentation to the CCT 506 professors and students on the details of the JLENS aerostat, its historical context, and the positive and negative aspects of its upcoming deployment to the Aberdeen Proving Ground.  We also answered a variety of questions from the audience.  In addition, we previewed our upcoming interview-based video with a special trailer-length version.  The following slides were used in the Skywatchdc presentation and the photograph shows the Skywatchdc team mid-presentation.

Skywatch Slide 1Skywatch Slide 2Skywatch Slide 3Skywatch Slide 4Skywatch Slide 5


Skywatchdc Team During the Presentation
Zhou, Emily, Tyler, Uwa, Man