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Established in 2011, French company A-NSE specialises in aerostats, including captive balloons, for civil and military applications. The types used for maritime surveillance are designed to carry sensor payloads ranging from radars to electro-optical devices and AIS receivers as well as electronic warfare suites. Aerostats offer signif-icant benefits — not least their pay-load capacity and the ability to remain aloft and stationary for up to 24 hours in the case of crewed airships or 40 days for captive balloons. A-NSE has the expertise to keep captive balloons aloft and stable in changing weather conditions with relative winds up to 60kts. Ground-controlled captive balloons for coastal surveillance can supplement or replace traditional coastal stations while offering greater detection ranges. From an altitude of 1000m, sensor range is around 100nm.

Captive balloons can also be deployed by ships at sea to increase the range of their sensors or relay communications. The size of the balloon depends on the size of the ship. A-NSE offers types from 3m-diameter near-spherical tactical versions flying at 300m and carrying a 1kg payload to models up to 25m in length that fly at 1000m and carry a 200kg payload. This last type can be deployed by two people in 45 minutes. A-NSE has tested a 25m captive balloon as part of a French ministry of defence experimental programme. The aim is to explore the concept’s potential for the surveillance of maritime approaches and critical sites on shore, two applications for which the company has already delivered several systems. Captive balloons can also be used as communications relays serving remote theatres of operations. The French Navy will use captive balloons to train mission squads.


A-NSE has also developed a captive balloon concept for the Total group. Equipped with a radar and an optronic surveillance system, this TC350 balloon will be deployed by a barge anchored off the coast of West Africa to protect one of the client’s offshore oil fields from 2020.


After delivering ten aerostat systems for civil and military applications since it was first set up, A-NSE won its first orders for crewed airships. With two pilots and up to four payload operators, these airships can be equipped with powerful sensor suites and a mission system (e.g. Thales Amascos). In 2014 the company built a 38m AN-1800 with a payload capability of 450kg then later received an order for a 43m version carrying a 750kg maritime surveillance payload.


AN 1800

Designer: A-NSE

- Envelope volume: 1,800 m3

- Diameter: 10 m

- Length: 38 m

- Playload: 740 kg

- Engine: 2 x 220 hp

- Endurance: 12 to 20 h

- Range: 1,500 km

- Speed: 130 km/h (cruise)

- Altitude: 100 to 10,000 feet

More information in Mer et Marine Euronaval 2018 Special issue : "Naval Forces : focus on french technology" 

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