I'm interested in building / buying a blimp or dirigible.
I've seen lots of posts on this forum from around 2008 / 2009 but all the links leading to sites where the kits can be purchased are broken.
Googling around the 'net also isn't leading me anywhere productive as well. Can anyone point me in the right direction?
I have a blimp bag, that was used for a tethered, non-motorized, photo operation, that held about 35 pounds of still and video gear. It was Helium filled and Kevlar roped, that went to 700 feet, agl but was usually used at the 100' - 300' agl working distance. It is about 22 feet long and was custom made for us. It is currently bagged and in California. It includes 4 large tail fins that are removable. Let me know if that might be of interest. If so, I will deploy it, fill it with air, measure it, inspect it and take some pictures for you. I can send the photos to you, via email. I used to fill it with the 291 tanks of Helium. I took about 4 tanks from scratch to full. We used to store it inside of a custom designed trailer, inside of my photo studio. The blimp was too large for the trailer, so we released some of the Helium to deflate it enough to fit into the 8' wide trailer. When we arrived at our location, to shoot, we would simply park the trailer, open the back door and slide it out. We would then attach a hose to the blimp and to the Helium tanks. It would normally take about 1/2 tank to refill it to fly the day. It was very stable in wind up to about 10 miles per hour. Above that, it did bob and move more than optimal. It worked like a champ and always drew a crowd. It is all white with blue fins. I stopped using it when I started riding in helicopters to do my aerials. I have now accumulated more than 10,000 hours of shooting from the blimp. fixed wing and helicopters. I did sell the trailer, so the blimp is bagged.
alibaba.com is a great place to get a very large, low-cost envelope. you can specify materials and envelope thickness with most of the manufacturers. add an Arduino-based blimp controller board, motors, props, maybe an internal heater/ballonet (manufacturer can add) for better buoyancy control.
Thank you for the reply. I am actually going to "re-use" this system, for my aerial photography business. The blimp will be tethered AND motored, for navigational control. The helium will get me up and will keep me airborne, while the motors will keep me positioned, rather than being pushed downwind or being affected by negative lift, descending without control, due to the wind-caused lift on the bottom, rather than on the top. I can turn the motors on or off, as needed. The cameras and sensors will be gimbal-controlled, for horizon stability. We'll be able to shoot things, from the blimp, that could not be shot from the drone, with noisy motors on all the time. The blimp will not fall out of the sky or go out of control, unlike some drones. And, the minute vibrations, caused by the drone motors, will not be transmitted to the camera/sensor pod. Heating the helium would give it a minimal amount of added lift, but the added heating element, fan and sensors would negate that added force. Hot helium would over-expand the bag and it would penetrate the bag material faster than normal, requiring it to be replaced. So, no hot helium. The payload will be matched to the lift potential of the blimp. But, I will not need as many navigational "things", such as RTK and 20 pounds of batteries. 1 battery will power the motors, on and off, all day. This should give us a smooth ride for our Blackmagic 4K Production video and PhaseOne 100 million pixel, medium format, still cameras, Infrared and Lidar sensors. It will be a great tool. I'm going to try to mount the cameras on top of the blimp, too. I'll be able to shoot under things, then. The added weight, on top, might roll the blimp over, but the tether, underneath the bag, should keep it upright. We'll see. Then, we will build the massively expensive, 70-pound, 12 ducted motored drone, to use where the blimp can't go. The motors, 6-bladed props and ESC's, alone, will cost $3,000.00 each... and I'll need 12 of them. Paul DeMers
It depends on your budget and the type of blimp you want. This company in Serbia makes great blimps(link below). They will run you around $2000, but the quality of the envelopes is much better than what you will find on Alibaba. They have been making custom blimps for me and I am very happy. You can find blimps on Alibaba too of course.