Navy Blimp Hovering Over Northern Virginia, Maryland to Map Region

U.S. Navy MZ-3A airship began mapping the region Saturday over Bristow, Dumfries, Haymarket and Woodbridge

A gigantic blimp seen hovering over Northern Virginia last weekend will be sticking around for awhile.

The blimp -- actually a U.S. Navy MZ-3A airship -- began conducting mapping operations Saturday over Bristow, Dumfries, Haymarket and Woodbridge.

In the days to come, it will head as far north as Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland and southwest near Culpeper, Va., before leaving the region Oct. 5 to travel to New Jersey, the Navy said.

And don't be alarmed if you notice it where you're used to seeing an empty sky. The Navy has special approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration to enter D.C.'s flight restriction zone over the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Fort Belvoir.

The blimp can remain afloat and stationary for more than 12 hours at a time, the Navy said.

This airship isn't the same as two others you may have heard about that are in a testing phase around Aberdeen, Md.

Those blimps -- known as JLENS (the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System) -- are a system of two tethered airships that can float up to 10,000 feet in the air. One carries a 360-degree radar system; the other a fire control system for missile interception. Those are operated by the U.S. Army.

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