I’m trying to build a UVA for reconnaissance purposes, but I’m really short on budget. I’ve already got an Arduino with a gps module, therefore I’d thought to throw in a digital compass, two motors and a helium balloon to create a small zeppelin equipped with a long rope to be dropped by a servo when the operator will need to land it.

I’ve got no knowledge on flying drones, therefore I’d like to have your opinion about the project. My main concerns are regarding winds: how much power will it be needed to the motor to be able to contrast high altitude winds? Will a spherical balloon be a problem? Is it hard to predict the altitude at whom the balloon will stabilize knowing the helium volume and the vehicle weight?

Do you know of any other project like this? I've seen some, but none of them looked built for long distances travel at high altitudes in open space. I'd like to build it so that it could run missions of at least 24h if possible.

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a sphere is not your best option for powered flight, it is good however for being tethered observation and testing.  when powered spheres try to fly they tend to flip, it wont be very fast and you will have loads of issues. expect winds to be as much as 60 mph to 100mph, find out wind speed from your airport and weather station. one idea for your helium is to set it up so that there are other balloons bring it up, at the right altitude you dirigible will be full and the carrier balloons will pop and I will leave it to your imagination o figuring out how to get rid of that extra payload.  high altitude dirigibles are very hard to figure out. the problem has always been getting it to that altitude, keeping it from going any higher, and getting it to stabilize, this is one project where it might be too expensive because it will take a lot of tricks and math in getting it to work right. then there is your camera and its quality and weight. the first time you are likely to loose it, the us army is trying to come up with the same thing, been in the works for half a decade. ill find a link for you, you can always build  a small blimp and sen it to 10,000 ft with a good payload, pressure wont be too much of an issue and it will be easier to recover plus its proven to work.

Thanks a lot for the useful information!

In the mean time I also figured out that a sphere would be a really hard shape to stabilize etc, but I found some interesting zeppelin-like models with dual motors that looked somehow promising. Still the wind would be a really big problem, and at the moment I have suspended this project.

One of the improvement that I thought to (as a reference) was to use a conductive wire to pass heat to the balloon so that it's altitude could be slightly changed to catch the most favorable winds as done by real balloons.

Maybe in future!

sorry for the suspension, there is a guy in canada who made a really tough blimp, it has two engines that run on gas just simple rc  plane engines that rotate on a contoreled ball bearing joint, but iv seen some electric engines too do really well, as long as your thrust is stronger wind will not be an issue.

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