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Contact Information: Tanya Klein Public Relations 973-596-3433

NJIT Announces Partnership for High Altitude Airship Commercialization

New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) announced today the formation of a strategic partnership between researchers at the university and Auxilia Inc., Albany, NY.  The new company will implement and commercialize applications of high altitude airships (HAA) and other lighter-than-air vehicles.

“NJIT scientists will provide the research and development for the project,” said Donald H. Sebastian, PhD, vice president for research and development at NJIT. “Electronics platforms carried by HAAs are key to a new infrastructure for globally extending wireless transmission of converged high speed, high bandwidth voice, video and digital data.”

“Auxilia will manage the business and commercialization of this leading-edge technology,” said Auxilia President Donald DeVito.

Sebastian noted that objectives of the project included improving high-speed wireless communications, creating secure and scaleable network operations, sustainable power systems, advanced imaging technologies as well as new materials development.  He foresees using NJIT’s computer simulation and modeling facilities for development.

First generation HAAs are unmanned, helium-filled vehicles, 25 times the size of the Goodyear blimp, Sebastian said.  Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics & Surveillance Systems-Akron and Stratcom International, Delaware, are developing them for defense purposes under federal funding.  Stratcom chair, James A. Abrahamson, Lt Gen. U.S. Air Force (Ret.), is anHAA pioneer who directed the strategic defense initiative under the late U.S. President RonaldReagan.  Abrahamson is a special advisor to Auxilia; the two firms have a marketing agreement.

“Airships can lift electronic equipment payloads into the stratosphere, above the jet stream, to an altitude of 70,000 feet,” noted Sebastian.  Research has shown that winds at this elevation are relatively low so that solar powered propeller motors can position an airship to any global geographic location with GPS accuracy and even keep it stationary for periods potentially exceeding one year.  An airship platform can thus function as a floating transmitter with a line of sight radio reach that covers a ground area greater than 600 miles in diameter.  HAAs will cost substantially less than satellites and unlike satellites, they can safely return to earth for equipment upgrading. These characteristics open new vistas for global communications.

Early civil applications for HAAs will likely address homeland security problems including port security and border monitoring, as well as emergency first responder communications. NJIT was designated in June of 2004 as the Homeland Security Technology Systems Center for New Jersey.

The HAA is viewed by many people as the best solution for tracking ocean-going traffic and monitoring cargo in ships at sea.  “We have expertise in the range of applicable technologies that will allow tracking and real-time content monitoring of cargo in transit,” said Sebastian.  “With the airship as a vital surveillance and communication link, we can push the border several hundred miles out to sea.”

The airship program complements other technology areas highlighted in NJIT’s recent strategic plan. These include wireless communications, advanced modeling and simulation, nano-materials for renewable power systems and high performance components. All are critical to the university’s plan to double research and development funding over the next five years, said Sebastian.

One of the nation's leading public technological universities, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is a top-tier research university that prepares students to become leaders in the technology-dependent economy of the 21st century. NJIT's multidisciplinary curriculum and computing-intensive approach to education provide technological proficiency, business acumen and leadership skills. With an enrollment of more than 10,000 graduate and undergraduate students, NJIT offers small-campus intimacy with the resources of a major public research university. NJIT is a global leader in such fields as solar research, nanotechnology, resilient design, tissue engineering, and cyber-security, in addition to others. NJIT ranks 5th among U.S. polytechnic universities in research expenditures, topping $110 million, and is among the top 1 percent of public colleges and universities in return on educational investment, according to PayScale.com.