"Whatever you want to call it, the new technology has just won the company (or rather, their US defence contractor ally Northrop Grumman) a contract with the United States Department of Defence to the tune of half a billion dollars. In just 12 months the team at Cardington must build a 300ft-long surveillance vehicle capable of staying airborne for 21 days at a time. It will be known as the LEMV (Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle).
The LEMV will hover above Afghanistan at 20,000ft, equipped with the sort of super-powerful cameras that can read a signature on a letter from four miles away. It will be, Taylor says, ‘an unblinking eye’, recording every move made on the ground. In theory, no one will be able to plant a roadside bomb – a device which has claimed the lives of so many British soldiers – without the cameras seeing who did it and, more importantly, where they came from. And, if the LEMV is a success, it could prove to be a tipping point, ushering in a new age of airships. "