It's a bird, it's a plane, it's....
Written by Mark Nichols
When people think of blimps, they usually picture the Hindenburg bursting into flames or the ads on the side of blimps cruising over ball games and other large events. But in Ogden, Utah blimps aren't about advertising. The Ogden Police Department plans to use their new remote controlled blimp for public safety purposes. Law enforcement agencies across the country use manned helicopters to patrol and provide support for cops on the ground. But the cost of choppers and their maintenance and fuel is beyond a lot of agencies' pocket books.
So Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey and Police Chief Jon Greiner have worked with Weber State University to find a cheaper alternative.
The blimp fit the bill. Experts say that Ogden police will most likely become the first agency to have a blimp on its force.
Bradley Stringer is the executive director of the Utah Center for Aeronautical Innovation and Design at WSU.
"It provides a very viable, low-cost alternative for them in effect to put a patrolman in the sky," Stringer told the Deseret News in a recent interview.
"We can put day or night vision cameras on this device. It can fly around a pre-programmed route or (be) retasked midflight if necessary to respond to a crime or natural disaster."
"It can do so much more", Mayor Godfrey told reporters.
"It can cover so much more ground with such tremendous precision. Much more effective than a person on the ground can have."
The blimp will be filled with helium. It's an unusual shape- 52 feet long and 4 feet wide.
But it's fast and can turn on a dime. In addition the two cameras on board can send video real time to officers on the ground.
The real attraction here is savings.
The cost of a blimp and the extras needed for law is about the same as a standard full sized police vehicle, Stringer said.
Godfrey says he thinks other law enforcement agencies will be keeping a close eye on his blimp to see it's something they can do also.
"The price points that we've been discussing are so attractive that I imagine that if this works they way we all expect it will, this will be something that will be deployed in many, if not all police departments around the country."
The only thing left now is coming up with a name for the aircraft.
"Yeah," the mayor said. "We're looking for a really attractive name."
How about "Inflatable Justice?"