We're racing to get ready for the FIRST Robotics Championships in Atlanta next week, and the second version of our Arduino-powered RC blimp mod kit is coming together nicely. We moved to a two-sided board and integrated our custom IR direction sensors into the main board. Above is what it looks like now, in the toy RC blimp gondola that we have lobotimized:

And the same side view of our previous version, which had the IR sensors on a separate daughterboard on a stalk:


We saved about 10 grams and a huge amount of fiddle factor by integrating the IR sensors. I moved the electronics to the outside so you can get to the on-off and reset switchs and programming port. But for the next version I may just leave the LEDs, switches and sensors on the bottom side of the board and move everything else inside for neatness. We may be able to save a few more grams by switching to the Maxbotix ultrasonic sensor instead of the Ping ))). Right now the whole blimp gondola, with all electronics and battery, is just over 80 grams. I doubt we can bring that down much more than another 10 grams, even with surface-mount components and a smaller board. But it doesn't really matter much, since we have plenty of extra lifting capacity with the 52" envelope we're using.

Here's the latest version of the Arduino code, which now flashes the LED a set number of times to show you which direction the IR sensors see the beacon coming from (useful for debugging).

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Comment by Greg Marra on April 13, 2008 at 8:19am
What will you be doing at the FIRST Championships? Are you demoing the blimp there?

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on April 13, 2008 at 10:35am
Yes, demoing the blimp, demoing a new Lego Mindstorms NXT UAV, and giving some speeches...
Comment by Greg Marra on April 13, 2008 at 11:56am
Chris, are the speeches going to be during the competition as part of the Opening/Closing ceremonies? I'm not going to the Championship this year, so if they are, I will tune in to the webcasts. Do you know when they will be?

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on April 13, 2008 at 1:07pm
I think they may be part of the closing ceremonies, but to be honest I'm not sure. I'm also giving speeches as part of the LEGO contingent. I suspect we'll just play it by ear....
Comment by uucww on October 1, 2008 at 1:34am
good!!

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