Blimp UAV update: Minimum and Maximum versions

We've forked the Blimp UAV into two projects, a minimum and a maximum one. The maximum one is the one that's using the NorthStar "synthetic GPS" directional system and all sorts of other goodies to be a real indoor UAV, with full room sense and navigation ability. That's moving ahead really well, and I hope to have PCBs and code to show you soon. But we also wanted to create a "minimum" blimp UAV that was the cheapest, simplest robotic blimp possible.

Here's what the Minimum Blimp UAV consists of:

* A BlubberBot envelope and dual thruster motors and mounts (we cannibalized a few other bits from this kit, such as the battery holder and voltage regulator).
* A pair of Pololu IR transceivers (one a beacon on the ground, the other onboard)
* A third motor for vertical control
* A Parallax Ping))) ultrasonic sensor for altitude sensing.
* A Boarduino board with ATMega168 chip (Arduino clone).
* Two Pololu twin motor driver microboards

All that this Blimp UAV is designed to do is to maintain a constant altitude and navigate around a stationary IR beacon on the ground (it just heads towards the beacon, overshoots, turns around and heads back at it). But that's the beginnings of real autonomy!

Target price: <$100 (we're not there yet).

Here's a video that shows how the Pololu IR transceivers work (and here's some BS2 code to test them):

Views: 1847

Comment by Simon Pan on February 16, 2008 at 12:57am
The IR sensing is really cool!

The minimum blimp will be used for a high school aerial robotics competition, correct? Have you thought about any specific details in regards to that (i.e., what objectives, etc).

It's a shame I won't be able to compete in it, but I commend you for your work. Kids like me are sitting in the tech classes of our failing public high schools twiddling our thumbs, learning nothing. Things like Botball, FIRST robotics, and hopefully this project really help us alot.
Comment by Howard Gordon on February 16, 2008 at 7:34am
Good to see this. What range are you currently seeing between the two transceivers ?

Ultimately, you will save some money by building your own beacons and receivers. The detectors cost around $1 each, and the emitter LED's probably cost $0.10.

By the way, have you seen this competition ?

I don't recall whether it was referenced in your original white paper.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on February 16, 2008 at 9:26am

Thanks for the link, which I hadn't seen. They seem to use mostly video for target spotting and navigation, which really brings the cost and complexity up (but is, of course, ultimately a more flexible solution). I'll post more on that later today.

The range we get on those Pololu sensors is about ten feet in a sun-filled room. Maybe at night and under artifical light that would be 1.5x that. It's not super long either way.

Comment by Jordi Muñoz on February 16, 2008 at 6:15pm
Be careful with some monitors:
Comment by Castillonis on February 27, 2008 at 5:59pm
I just found your site and need to spend some time becoming familiar with it. This ultrasound sensor doesn't fit this projects budget, but I feel that it is valuable to know about it in case you want accurate object sensing.

Hopefully, this is not too off topic

LV-MaxSonar-EZ1 which would give you an (serial) RS-232 interface for about $25. It is capable of detecting an object within the range of 0 inches to about 21 feet with a resolution of +/- one inch. There is a datasheet here.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on February 27, 2008 at 6:21pm
That sounds very similar to the Ping))) ultrasonic sensor we're already using. What's do you see as the main advantage? (We use the ultrasonic sensor for altitude control, and are never more than 5 ft off the ground)

Comment by Jordi Muñoz on February 27, 2008 at 6:57pm
=) Huston the blimp is fully working,,,
Comment by Castillonis on February 28, 2008 at 12:00pm
Looks like you have a successful design. Maybe for the max blimp project because of the increased range, but the current part has good documentation and an easy to use interface. Is there a page for the max blimp yet?

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on February 28, 2008 at 1:16pm
The Maximum blimp will be unveiled in April at the FIRST Championships in Atlanta. We may give a few early glimpses here before that.
Comment by Alasdair Allan on March 19, 2008 at 5:11am
Does anyone know where I can pick up an equivalent to BPHobbies MOT-N20ULV motor here in the UK? It looks like they don't ship overseas...?


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