John Sullivan


Director of the Center for Advanced Manufacturing

Purdue University


High Altitude Airship

The High Altitude Airship, or HAA is an unmanned, solar powered airship that can maintain a geostationary position at 70,000 feet for a minimum of one year without maintenance or refueling. Lift is provided by helium that is contained in its envelope and electric-powered propellers control the position and attitiude. Thin-film photovoltaic solar cells power the airship during the day and energy is stored in fuel cells and batteries for night operation.

The HAA has the capability of meeting essential military and commercial needs. The HAA will serve as an “eye in the sky” for observing national borders, monitoring hot spots, and overseeing events where security is in question, filling an essential role for Homeland Security. As a telecommunications hub, the HAA will provide needed functionality as commercial wireless technologies continue to develop and expand

The High Altitude Airship project is part of the Purdue Center for Security of Large Scale Systems and utilizes a unique collection of expertise and resources  from several schools of engineering and science at Purdue and PCKA.


The seminar will focus on vehicle sizing, dynamic simulation, controller design, aerodynamic modeling, structural modeling, atmospheric modeling, and scale validation.


A sizing and station keeping software set has been developed for computing the design parameters of an airship based on specific mission requirements.  The station keeping simulation, which utilizes a turbulent atmospheric model, simulates the performance of the designed airship during its design mission..


To validate simulations and computational data a 19 foot model airship has been constructed and is currently undergoing extensive flight testing.  The model can fly in a 20 mph wind and is outfitted with GPS for ground based automated station keeping and maneuvering.