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Navy’s only blimp scheduled to fly over D.C’s suburbs on an aerial mapping assignment

The Navy has a single blimp, and plans call for flying it over the Washington suburbs during the next couple of weeks.

The lighter-than-air craft, which is based at the Patuxent River Naval Air station, is to carry out an aerial mapping assignment at the agricultural research facility in Beltsville and at Fort Belvoir, according to the Naval Research Laboratory.

The mission, which is scheduled to run through Oct. 5, is also expected to include occasional trips to the Frederick and Culpeper, Va., areas, the laboratory said.

The airship, 178 feet long and filled with helium for buoyancy, can keep its crew in the air almost stationary for more than 12 hours at a stretch, authorities said.

Its engines give it a top speed of about 55 mph, which puts it in the airways’ slow lane.

However, the NRL said, the contractor that will fly it has highly qualified blimp pilots who have received special awareness training for the Washington area, with its many aircraft operations and flight restrictions.

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