Meet Ohio's new drone: the 'Blimp in a Box'

The 'Blimp in a Box' isn't your typical drone, but it provides a powerful option for the corrections department when it comes to security and surveillance

By Ashley Garst
Associate Editor

Drones are everywhere in the news these days, with promises that they might actually be everywhere someday soon. There are practical applications for the technology and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (DRC) is one of the first to recognize just how drones can be used for the corrections industry.

Enter the ‘Blimp in a Box.’

Photo courtesy Drone Aviation Corp

Did you think that drones could only be miniature planes, or tiny helicopters with four rotors? Not the BiB, created by Drone Aviation Corp (DAC). It’s a tethered surveillance system that will allow the DRC to patrol its facilities’ borders from high in the sky.

“The Department of Corrections came to us,” said Dan Erdberg, COO of Drone Aviation Corp. “We think this is a really big market that hasn’t been tapped into yet.

“Theoretically, if you have a perimeter around a facility, you could launch [the BiB] from within the facility and see 360 degrees out from the facility.”

The BiB is a balloon surveillance system that is widely used for situations that would otherwise require a fleet of helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft. Instead, the balloon remains tethered to the ground for both power and safety, ensuring that it won’t float away on the breeze.

It’s useful for both daytime video and nighttime video, using both night vision and thermal detection. Inflation of the balloon takes four helium tanks using 400 cubic feet a minute, which is the equivalent of blowing up an air mattress in less than five seconds.

It can lift a camera to a thousand feet and still provide stabilized, quality video to the viewer. It’s also incredibly easy to use. Check out the below video, where Lucas Cochran of the Discovery Channel is trained to use the BiB in less than ten minutes.

Erdberg explained that the BiB would allow those using it to see other drones bringing contraband in, suspicious activity, vehicle activity, and do all of that during either the day or night.

“We’ve been studying the market, and have been focusing on contraband smuggling,” Erdberg said. “We’re seeing that this could potentially be a deterrent once these guys get caught, word would hopefully spread.”

DAC reports that past customers who used the BiB reported only success.

And for those who are concerned about privacy, the BiB is definitely not a drone to worry about.

“Something like this, it doesn’t move,” said Erdberg. “If it flies over the prison, it’s monitoring the prison. They don’t move around. There’s a drastic difference between the public’s views between free-flying drones and these.”

And in the end, it’s high-profile purchases like that of the DRC that spread the word about the BiB and generate more interest.

“It’s very new to the industry. We want to get the word out there about it to let the industry know these systems work.”

Right now, the BiB is under testing in Ohio.

For more information, check out DAC’s website.

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