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 May 22, 2009 at 3:32pm
Absolutely. It would be easy to add a magnetometer.
Comment by Robert Wolffgang on May 24, 2009 at 3:11pm
Hi everyone!
I'm new to this kind of topic, my experiences in robotics are limited to Lego Mindstorms. So I was wondering, is it possible to equip your blimp with XBee so that it could be controlled from a computer? Especially your final version that I could purchase from
Thanks for your help!

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on May 24, 2009 at 6:14pm
Yes, you can connect a Xbee module to the board via the FTDI port.
Comment by Mike Monette on May 29, 2009 at 1:02pm
wo questions:
1. The build instructions don't seem to address how to wire the power for the beacon. Is there another document with that info?
2. The link "Instructions for using it are here" at the top of this page goes to the FIRST Robotics discussion page. Was this meant to be a link to a different page or document?

Comment by Kai on June 2, 2009 at 2:57pm
Is there any other way to buy the Blimpduino other than from the Makershed?

Unfortunately is not possible to pay with a German Credit Card and the people fro Makershed dont even answer to support requests concerning this :-((

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on June 2, 2009 at 3:10pm

Apologies for the omissions in those docs--we were racing to finish the kits for Maker Faire and forgot to update the docs. #2 is addressed, and I'll fix #1 in the docs tonight (basically just solder the 9v connector to the + and - pins on the beacon).

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on June 2, 2009 at 3:11pm

We will be offering Blimpduino through the DIY Drones store in a week or so. You can pay with Paypal there.
Comment by Kai on June 3, 2009 at 8:40am
I am really looking forward to this :-)

Comment by Jerry Isdale on June 13, 2009 at 4:50pm
Instruction step 5 says "Cut a six-pin male regular header". I believe (from picture and female side) it should be a 7 (seven) pin male regular header.
Comment by Jerry Isdale on June 13, 2009 at 4:52pm
Also the kit was missing a part (center shaft connector), short supply of heat shrink and some wires were a bit shorter than instructions indicated (3.5" wire cut into 2 2" wires?)
Got kit built except for that, and waiting on battery/charger/cable/helium (not available locally!)


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