From the thesis abstract: "Long duration conflicts have become the staple for 21st century engagements. Whether for counter-insurgency operations, humanitarian assistance, border patrol, or homeland security, the need for years or even decades of persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) has place tremendous strain on collection platforms. The Department of Defense (DOD) has strove to field improved capabilities but has consistently overlooked a major region of operations: near-space. Near-space provides a tremendous opportunity to provide persistent ISR. Operating at altitudes above 65,000 feet, near-space vehicles enjoy wide fields of view than can encompass an entire theater of operations such as Iraq or Afghanistan. Unlike low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites, which only briefly pass through the area of operations, near-space vehicles have the ability to loiter over the area of responsibility and provide the persistence necessary for current operations. Near-space airships, with the ability to host large payloads and loiter in near-space for months at a time, provide the solution to the DOD's problem of persistent ISR. Technology demonstrations have drastically reduced the technical risk of fielding near-space airships. With a unit cost similar to that of a Global Hawk Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), near-space airships improve support to the warfighter while substantially reducing long-term operational costs. The DOD needs to invest significant effort into developing near-space airships now to ensure it can meet the ISR needs of the future."
Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC): http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/