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Researchers plan to use one-of-a-kind airship to search for Bigfoot

By

October 12, 2012

An artist's rendering of the completed Aurora airship

An artist's rendering of the completed Aurora airship

Image Gallery (4 images)

Fifteen years ago, Utah-based prospector William A. Barnes was on a solo gold-dredging expedition in the wilds of Northern California. One night, he heard something disturbing the rocks in the canyon above his campsite. He proceeded to watch as that indistinct “something” came trudging downhill, until it stood only about three feet (0.9 meters) from his tent. At that point, upon seeing its size, shape, and profile against the brightly-moonlit quartz hillside, he became a firm believer in the legendary creature commonly referred to as Bigfoot or Sasquatch. In the years since, he has become obsessed with researching the animals. Now, as the founder of The Falcon Project, he hopes to prove their existence once and for all – with the help of a state-of-the-art remote-control camera-equipped airship.

So, why an airship? Unlike ground-based human explorers, it will be able to travel quickly and quietly over any terrain, it will have a high vantage point, and it will be able to see down between the trees. It also won’t need to stop and catch its breath or rest its feet.

The 45-foot (13.7-meter)-long Aurora airship will be the first one of its kind, designed and built by Canadian remote-control airship company RATS (Remote Aerial Tripod Specialists) Inc. It will consist of tandem side-by-side helium-filled envelopes, joined by a gyro-stabilized carbon fiber camera platform. That catamaran-like design will help keep it from rolling from side to side, which can be a problem with traditional single-envelope airships.

It will additionally feature a proprietary propulsion system, in which air will be drawn in and vectored through four ducts. This will allow for vertical take-off and landing capabilities, hovering on the spot, and more energy-efficient operation than traditional propellor-based systems.

Casts of what could be Bigfoot footprints (Image: Dr. Jeff Meldrum)
Casts of what could be Bigfoot footprints (Image: Dr. Jeff Meldrum)

The Aurora will reportedly have a top air speed of 45 mph (72 km/h), and will be able to remain aloft for approximately three to four hours at a time. It will be remotely-piloted by Barnes and his team from a command center in a customized motorhome, and will be switched over to autopilot once it has reached altitude. Once switched over, it will be able to autonomously perform an aerial grid search, over an area within line-of-sight of the motorhome’s mast – Barnes estimates that its range could extend up to five miles (eight km) in any direction from the command center.

Mounted on the airship will be a gyro-stabilized thermal imaging/infrared/HD video camera, which is being built specifically for the project. The aircraft will also be equipped with carbon dioxide-recognition equipment, to detect the exhalations of animals in the forests beneath it. Barnes hopes to become familiar with the CO2 signatures of common creatures such as bears, so that he won’t get unnecessarily excited by every reading he gets. When something unusual shows up, however, the team will use to the camera’s powerful zoom lens to get a better look at it, while recording the images.

The ground crew will also be playing back and recording infrasound, as some people have theorized that Bigfoots use it to communicate with one another.

William A. Barnes, founder of The Falcon Project
William A. Barnes, founder of The Falcon Project

Barnes told Gizmag that it should take less than an hour to assemble the airship every evening, after which it will embark on several flights each night. Its camera output will be streamed live on the internet, although there will be a “kill switch” in the command center – should a Bigfoot be spotted, viewers will only see the first few seconds, with the rest of the footage being saved for a planned educational documentary for the public. He hopes to record at least 45 minutes of smooth, clear Bigfoot footage (or perhaps “Bigfootage”?) for use in that film, half of the proceeds of which will go towards educating the public in wilderness conservation.

RATS, Inc. president Stephen Barkley said that he has hopes for the airship to be ready by early next spring (Northern Hemisphere). Once it is ready, Barnes plans on spending up to one year on the road, visiting Bigfoot-sighting hotspots in a total of 12 states.

Principal investigator on the project will be anthropologist Dr. Jeff Meldrum of Idaho State University, who has been an active Bigfoot researcher for the past 17 years. "The prospect of compelling DNA evidence for a relict North American primate looms on the horizon and may indicate that a corner is about to be turned," Meldrum told us. "[However] DNA sequence data can only tell us so much about sasquatch. What follows will be the challenge of studying a rare, reclusive, solitary, nocturnal primate species in the field. Aerial reconnaissance combined with thermal imaging, widely employed in wildlife studies, is a logical approach to meeting this challenge. The Falcon Project offers the advantage of the stealth and maneuverability capabilities of an unmanned helium-filled airship, over helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft. This is especially true in rugged remote forested terrain."

Idaho State University anthropologist Dr. Jeff Meldrum, with the cast of a footprint attri...
Idaho State University anthropologist Dr. Jeff Meldrum, with the cast of a footprint attributed to you-know-who

Not only will his involvement help lend the venture some mainstream credibility, but it will also allow Barnes to take the airship higher – as a civilian pilot he would be limited to an altitude of no more than 400 feet (122 meters), but as a member of a scientific expedition associated with a university, he can take it up to 7,500 feet (2,286 meters) or more.

The Falcon Project has been in the works for nearly three years, although the university’s involvement has helped make the actual expedition a lot more likely to happen. Barnes and his team are now seeking private funding or corporate sponsorship, although members of the public are also welcome to provide tax-deductible funding via the project’s website.

“We’re all about educating people on these creatures,” he told us. “Our goal is protection for them.”

Barnes, incidentally, doesn’t like to use the terms “Bigfoot” or “Sasquatch,” as he feels that they have become too closely associated with hoaxes and sensationalism. Instead, he prefers to call them “North American apes” or “hominoids.” Whatever you call them, and whether or not they actually exist, we definitely wish him luck in his endeavor.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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21 Comments

Oh, for cryin' out loud!! If they are just going to be throwing money away like that, LET ME HAVE IT! Bigfoot indeed! What a foolish way to spend money.

Bobby Robinson
12th October, 2012 @ 01:42 pm PDT

But there is NO SUCH THING as Bigfoot. Jeez, I thought this nonsense had been put to bed YEARS ago.

Chuck Anziulewicz
12th October, 2012 @ 02:13 pm PDT

Lets start with you can not prove a negative. Then go and read about what the Europeans had to say about Australian species such as the duck billed platypus.

However I think it is someone with big feet and a great sense of humor.

Slowburn
12th October, 2012 @ 03:23 pm PDT

Actually, you can easily prove a negative, it's just a fallacy to suppose that you could not:

http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-12-05/#feature

This blimp could prove to be a very valuable research tool, especially if they can unbound the line-of-sight restriction and send it on long distance, large duration searches, and even search & rescue missions. It should be no less feasible than operating Mars Explorer robots, for example. It would be less likely to be shot down if it had "SEARCH AND RESCUE" painted on the side; back in the day real dirigibles were too tempting targets & were regularly shot up.

They should get another one of these set up over Loch Ness!

Grunchy
12th October, 2012 @ 07:04 pm PDT

The tech will be useful in other research. This particular search will be fruitless.

Max Kennedy
13th October, 2012 @ 06:31 am PDT

It's annoying that airship research is in any way associated with something as out there as 'bigfoot'.

How is it in all these many decades that bigfoot males and females somehow found each other and were able to propagate, but we still have not found ANY genetic material—hair or scat—just bigfoot impressions and absurd grainy photos?

yrag
13th October, 2012 @ 05:20 pm PDT

I hope they find the ape, also I hope they don't get shot down when they fly over the hidden marijuana fields up there in the wilderness.

mfritz0
14th October, 2012 @ 05:19 am PDT

Its certainly a possibility that it could exist, there are lots of large areas with no people living in it, and so many sightings that i think there is compelling evidence available that its aleast possible, however no proper evidence to show that it really is true.

Its alot of times easy to try and shrug this sort of thing off because of poor quality of some of the evidence, or even worse the character qualities of some of the witnesses(some are quacks, or people you couldnt trust) but some of evidence of fair quality and some witnesses have no good reason to lie/fabricate stories. does that mean its true? of course not.

But i think we need to have an open mind.

Arahant
14th October, 2012 @ 08:11 am PDT

They are not apes. Apes are not bipedal.

Gene Storton
14th October, 2012 @ 06:03 pm PDT

Bigfoot is B.S......

That said, WTF is with 3 to 4hrs for this airship's flight time? How about a week? 24/7 with night, thermal, etc., etc., etc. vision?

If this guy was serious about finding his hairy unicorn he'd be using much longer range technology (that's already out there in many forms).

Last, WHY is a donation to his project "tax-deductible"?!?

Joseph Boe
15th October, 2012 @ 06:11 am PDT

I wish them all the luck. I'd love to see the look on all the skeptics faces if one of these creatures is captured or killed.

Snatr
15th October, 2012 @ 12:57 pm PDT

I might be a little skeptical BUT what the heck... go for it! Lots of things out in the backwoods we don't know exist.

Brian W. Allan
15th October, 2012 @ 03:16 pm PDT

What if this thing is asleep when it flights over? Let us suppose this thing is still alive - how old would it be now? As old as the stories were - I'd say you should be looking for bones instead of feeding us one!

donwine
15th October, 2012 @ 06:56 pm PDT

I can't say I don't believe in bigfoot but I can't say it's not real either.

A solid recon mission is a must if one is planning on getting some real reconnaissance on bigfoot, but I got to say, with this little thing they have for a tool, their chances are pretty slim.

From the stories I've heard that sounded real, bigfoot is really curious around camp sites. So they might have a better chance, if they set up a baiting camp with real people.

Les Stroud from the show "Survivorman" has such an experience. He hasn't seen bigfoot but he has heard a very loud Ape-like shout.

Nitrozzy Seven
15th October, 2012 @ 07:21 pm PDT

Alaska wasn't "discovered" (by Europeans)

until the 1700's.

Gorillas weren't officially discovered until the 1800's.

The first Westerner known to have seen a living giant panda is the German zoologist Hugo Weigold, who purchased a cub in 1916.

Skepticism, scoffing and mockery are not scientific traits.

Whilst such cryptids are largely considered unlikely to be discovered by the scientific community, let us remember that it was medical science that largely mocked the notion of germs being dangerous until microscopes and other means were able to prove that it was something as obvious today as septicemia that was killing patients in post-operative recovery at the time.

"Even if it's true, how can something so small be dangerous?"

they asked. Some doctors even mocked & scoffed at the very notion and just wiped their scalpels on their white butcher's aprons and went and ate rare roast beef and laughed at the discomfort of the other patrons... re-using their utensils once they returned to their surgical theaters.

Some of the arrogance of ignorance in supposedly scientific realms has caused more pain & suffering than in others.

Probability & possibility are more reasonable to assign than certainty.

Bias is still bias - no matter which way it leans or falls.

Griffin
15th October, 2012 @ 09:06 pm PDT

It is not "bias" to declare Bigfoot HIGHLY improbable.

Scientists estimate that there would need to be about 2000 specimens to have a sustainable breeding population, yet as YRAK points out, we haven't found anything that remotely qualifies as solid evidence - no skeletons, no bodies, no scat, no hair. Just a bunch of anecdotes, grainy photos, bad video and some tracks - most of which have been proven hoaxes.

Like the UFO proponents, Bigfoot afficianados are forever declaring that the compelling evidence is "just around the corner". Unfortunately it seems to stay just around the corner for decades.

MikeM
16th October, 2012 @ 09:42 am PDT

This is the first Bigfoot hunt that sounds plausible. I think it's dumb to go to the forest with a camera crew to look for an elusive creatures. Looking from above makes more sense.

Jason Goldtrap
16th October, 2012 @ 12:33 pm PDT

OBSERVATION: Might want to put a few of these along our borders - get two birds with one stone.

Lasereye
18th October, 2012 @ 11:27 am PDT

"There will be 1,000,000 people someday in New York City? You are crazy! Where will they park all the horses?" Some of you skeptics need to think of this before scoffing. In answer to Max Kennedy, I was a licensed big game guide and outfitter in Colorado in the eighties, and only one time found the skeleton of a mountain lion and no bears, although I have seen plenty of both in the wild. Bigfoot may or may not be real, but this can possibly provide definitive proof. Every day new technologies are discovering previously undiscovered galaxies. Potential mates find each other by sell and obviously good night vision like owls have. I wrote a book about my tracking adventures and can tell you, animals which probably have less intelligence than a bigfoot, which would probably comapre to gorillas or great apes in intelligence, can be very elusive if they do not want to be approached or found. That is my two cents.

Don Bendell
19th October, 2012 @ 12:53 pm PDT

GPS this over the Congo and you might find some dinosaurs, but you need a longer flight time.

I'm serious.

Lumen
22nd October, 2012 @ 05:48 pm PDT

Before the meltdown of the last ice age, there was the Pleistocene megafauna. I is not unthinkable this is a survivor. If it was a fabrication, why the ridiculous size of the feet ? If you read Leonard Clark "The rivers ran east" you will note how he describes the feet of the Amazon Indians as being very large.

junebug
11th June, 2013 @ 06:12 am PDT
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