BlimpDuino is a very low cost open source autonomous blimp. It consists of an Arduino-based blimp controller board with on-board infrared and ultrasonic sensors and an interface for an optional RC mode, a simple gondola with two vectoring (tilting) differential thrusters, and ground-based infrared beacon.

It is available as a commercial kit from the Maker Shed or the DIY Drones store for $89.

[UPDATE: The current Blimpduino kit has been discontinued. Stay tuned for a new design in 2012]

  • What else you'll need
  • Instructions for making the kit are here.
  • Instructions for loading the code are here
  • Correct LED/servo/motor behavior modes are here
  • Instructions for using Blimpduino are here
  • The parts list is here
  • The discussion forum for teams using Blimpduino in the FIRST Robotics aerial robotics demonstration is here
  • If you want to build your own board from scratch, the necessary files and component lists are here
  • If you want to print out a cool DIY Drones sticker like the blimp above has, here's a pdf.


The Blimpduino board is the core of the kit. Features:

* 17 grams, with ultrasonic and IR sensors.
* Controls two motors and one vectoring servo.
* Built-in RC compatibility (can read two RC channels--throttle and steering)
* Designed for a 7.4v LiPo battery; has an automatic power cut-off at low voltage to protect the battery.

Here's the board with the ultrasonic sensor removed, so you can see the Atmega168 processor underneath it:

Here is a video of BlimpDuino in flight, using a breadboard version of the controller board:

At the moment, we're using Pololu IR beacons as the ground beacon, but we'll eventually release our own, open source, versions of them, too.

Here's the board on the gondola with vectoring thrusters and the optional RC receiver:

The commercial kit consists of the following:

--BlimpDuino board, with all SMD parts already soldered on
--Other through-hole components, to be soldered by user (easy)
--A very simple laser-cut plastic platform for the board, battery, optional RC receiver, and motor components
--A servo, gears and motor shaft for the vectoring (thrust tilting) function
--Two motors and props
--One IR ground beacon
--52" mylar envelope

The following is a chronological list of posts describing the development of the project. This is mostly for those who want to follow along and learn about Arduino-based robotics. If you're interested in autonomous blimp development and want to know more about BlimpDuino features, they will give you some insight into the evolution of this project.

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3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on January 7, 2009 at 5:28pm
@Peter. Welcome! What are you working on and how would you like to collaborate? We're focused on contests initially, and the next technical tasks for us is adding a magnetometer and multiple beacon sensing.
Comment by dp on January 19, 2009 at 5:31am
wonderfull work!
Comment by Emme on March 15, 2009 at 5:17am
what about inertial navigation? Has anyone ever experimented with the distance estimation you can get from some onboard accelerometers?
Comment by Reto on March 24, 2009 at 11:29pm
I am not sure if my input is in the right place here and useful to anyone, but well...
I read somewhere that blimbs thend to loose fill, resp. have to be refilled once in a while. A few months ago, I went with my son to the medical doctor and the med gave my son a surgical glove filled with air on which he drafted two eyes and a mouth. My son was glad! At home we attached some thread to this funny balloon with fingers, and the thing eventually was left hanging at a window. After 4 MONTHS, I noticed one day the glove still retained its full filling of air! I found that incredible.
And so I thought a few such surgical gloves maybe could make a funny blimb... that doesn't need to be refilled!
Comment by Matt on April 20, 2009 at 8:14pm

I thought you guys might like the Penguin Blimp seen here (Festo Vid):

May be using your tech!
See the close-up at 1:39


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on April 20, 2009 at 11:35pm
Cool! I like the ultrasounic beacons and Xbee wireless. Too heavy for our much smaller blimps, but a good idea all the same.
Comment by Matt on April 21, 2009 at 12:20am
Hi Chris,

I have a 20' blimp that was originally designed for indoor use and used brushed motors back in 2001.

If I retrofitted it with brushless and rudder/elevator, would I use ArduPilot to control it? I would only fly it in winds under 10kts. It has full thrust vectoring.

Comment by Doug Emes on May 22, 2009 at 3:07pm
Congratulations on making it in the MakerShed! I am pre-ordering this weekend!

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on May 22, 2009 at 3:12pm
Matt: You could certainly try. Autpilots that use GPS to get a directional vector require forward motion to work (so the blimp would have to be moving) and the navigation algorithms were not designed for the kinetic latency that charecterizes blimps. But the code could probably be tweaked to do an okay job.
Comment by Matt on May 22, 2009 at 3:23pm
@Chris. Hmmm, I think that a magnetometer in this case would make a lot of difference, I have a feeling there's a spare input left on the board after the shield has been attached. Maybe that's a future project... Thanks.


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