Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Blimp maker builds flying digital sign

How can you resist a headline like that? Well, while Goodyear et. al. have offered basic LED ticker-type displays on the sides of their blimps for some time now, this small Florida-based company is looking to take things to the next level. From this cool TechWeb article:
The A-170 Video Lightsign from The Lightship Group took two and a half years to develop, from concept to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which received approval in April. An unidentified company already agreed to pay $5 million to lease the flying digital sign for one year.

The craft, which shipped in pieces, arrived in Australia this past weekend. The company that leased the airship will take possession in August. Production will begin on the next A-170 in 60 days. It's been leased to an American company, according to Mickey Wittman, Lightship Group director of client services, who worked with Goodyear's blimp division for many years.

Advancements both in balloon and light emitting diodes technology made the project possible. Today's LEDs produce more and better quality light, and weigh and cost less, analysts say. The part of the airship that fills with helium is more durable, too.

The blimp, or "Video Lightsign," measures 170 feet long, 55-feet high and 46-feet wide. The picture streams from a laptop PC in the airship to the screen mounted on the outside. A Flir Ultramedia Series Aerial Camera mounted on the A-170 can take ground pictures of people and places, and display them on the 70-by-30-foot LED screen as it travels 15 mph approximately 1,000 feet above.
It will be very interesting to see who takes them up on this technology first. It seems like there are any number of events where a floating, high-res screen 1,000 feet in the air might be useful :)

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