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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Comment by clayton.chu on January 20, 2011 at 12:14am
Any idea on when the new release will be, and is there a changelog? I'm about to use Blimpduino to start work on a master's thesis and I want to have the most recent stuff.
Comment by Fouad on May 28, 2011 at 2:30pm
We are almost mid year, any news on the new Blimp
Comment by Adam Cox on August 8, 2011 at 10:47am
I know the question has been asked, and I don't want to be a bother, but I'm curious if there is any ETA for the new Blimpduino. I've just recently started playing around with Arduino and am very interested in buying a Blimpduino kit when they are available again.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on August 8, 2011 at 2:34pm
No ETA yet. It's an interest of mine, too, but I think we want to redesign it from scratch to use the latest technologies. I'll probably turn to it before the end of the year, but if community members want to come up with their own design that we could produce, that might speed it up.
Comment by Adam Cox on August 11, 2011 at 12:22pm

Sweet, thanks for the update.

Comment by Joseph Juhnke on August 31, 2011 at 11:59am

Can I ask what the flaws were with the last design. Was is just the age of the components? I'm currently trying to piece together a BlimpDuino from individual parts. This IS possible, right? I can use the parts lists and code linked above and built it myself?

Comment by Wes Collins on September 23, 2011 at 10:23am

Would it be possible to link 3 blimpduinos together to enable the remote control of a small (20') 3 hulled rigid airship model?  I would like to be able to demonstrate autonomy with all test models, but if not I can use a traditional RC control system..  The 17g weight of the blimpduino board is very nice though.  Are they currently available?  I saw that production was discontinued on one model with another to come this year but I can't find that one...


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on September 23, 2011 at 10:30am

Wes, Blimpduino 1.0 has been discontinued and we have not finished a design for Blimpduino 2.0 yet. I think it will be early next year. More time = better, cheaper sensors and a more powerful board.

Comment by Wes Collins on September 23, 2011 at 6:07pm

Would it then be possible to use 3 quadcopter controller units linked to a single control interface with the available small-scale boards?  I think I have the bigger stuff under control, it's just getting the flight controls put together for the 20' flight test model....


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on September 23, 2011 at 7:24pm

Wes: I'm afraid I don't understand the question. "3 quadcopter controller units linked to a single control interface with the available small-scale boards". What exactly are you referring to? Can you please provide links?

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