The Helikite comprises a semi-rigid helium-filled balloon, having a rigid carbon-fibre spine, with the balloon shaped aerodynamically. The balloon is generally oblate-spheroid in shape although this is not essential. Solid spars provide attachment points for payload equipment.
In most winds the aerodynamic lift is greater than the aerostatic lift from the helium.
The Helikite design is intended for all-weather, high-altitude operation. The round, stubby shape allows it to be flown in any weather or for altitudes up to 7000 ft. In wind, both the main aerodynamic lift and the aerostatic lift are at the front, while the spar weight and keel are at the stern. Therefore a Helikite remains stable in relatively high winds.
For operation in extreme conditions, a ballonet may be fitted.
A Helikite is a new type of tethered aerostat with its own official classification, distinct from any type of balloon.
The US Customs classifies a Helikite as "other non-powered aircraft", while the British Civil Aviation Authority's Air Navigation Order has created its own classification as "Helikites" as distinct from "kites" and "balloons".
Customs authorities classify the Helikite as a type of kite because of the considerable positive aerodynamic uplift in wind.
Thousands of Helikites have been operated worldwide, over both land and sea.
Helikites are used for aerial photography, lifting antennas, radio-relay, advertising, agricultural bird-control, position marking, and meteorology. The military also use Helikites as jungle marker balloons, for lifting radio-relays, and raising surveillance equipment.
Due to their stability, Helokites are capable of successfully operating non-gyrostabilised cameras, leading to wide use by photographers and cameramen.
A small Helikite may be used as a "personal aerostat" that is small enough for one person to easily operate and yet will fly high in bad weather.
A standard military Helikite surveillance system has 34 m³ volume, and is claimed to outperform a conventional aerostat of 60 m³. These Helikites can lift surveillance equipment above the range of small arms fire, effectively making Helikites unassailable to most threats.