An autonomous stratospheric airship comprising a hull which contains an equipment bay, forward and aft ballonets, forward and aft air management sub-systems, a propulsion system, and a control system is described. The airship also comprises a regenerative solar energy power and storage sub-system which allows powered daytime and nighttime operations. Further, the control system of the airship enables autonomous operation between selected waypoints or along a specified line of sight. The solar arrays utilized by the airship are internally mounted and gimballed so as to provide maximum collection efficiency and not impede the aerodynamic profile of the airship. A greatly simplified and slightly less controllable version of the airship, which makes use of alternative solar array control and ballast management systems, while carrying the equipment bay on the exterior of the hull, is also disclosed.
William D. Perry;Thomas H. Jaeckle;Lawrence E. Epley;Allan B. Black