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 Wes Collins on September 24, 2011 at 9:30am

http://code.google.com/p/arducopter/wiki/ArduCopter ...Hook three of these together to be controlled by a single operator?


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on September 24, 2011 at 9:54am

Wes, sure you could do that. The Xbees can be set up to mesh, too, so they can communicate with each other. Blimps have different control laws, so there would be some code tweaking required, but it could work.

Comment by Wes Collins on September 24, 2011 at 2:10pm

Excellent, I've been talking with some folks about the xbee setup in the full sized version.  I need to adapt the smaller control boards for the 20' flight test version.  Here in about three hours, I'll be making another blog entry with the completed UAV platform design as far as the external physical appearance is concerned so you'll be able to get a better idea of what I'm trying to adapt a control configuration for.  (Transferring designs from pencil and paper to 3d computer model is painstaking...80 years ago it just went from paper to papier mache or balsa model...now there is a whole new additional step which is simultaneously more and less difficult than going straight to balsa models...).

Comment by Amanda Gaetano on October 3, 2011 at 2:32pm

Any idea what the max horizonal speed was on this thing?  My senior design project is to design and build a small blimp that can more at 5 m/s horizontally and 1 m/s vertically.  We've decided to stick some autonomy on it for kicks, and I've been looking at the blimpduino setup as a rough model to follow, but we've been stuck on trying to pick an appropriately sized motor for a week or so at this point.

Comment by Wes Collins on October 4, 2011 at 10:22am

What is the overall weight of your airframe Amanda, and how many props did you plan for...1 or 2?  It matters.  There are all sorts of non traditional powering possibilities for R/C blimps and airships.  I saw a kid replace the factory engine on a 36" toy blimp with one from an electric toothbrush.  The toothbrush motor weighed less than the OEM motor and he had to tape 2 pennies to the little plastic gondola to regaain neutral bouoyancy,.

Comment by sbright33 on October 16, 2011 at 3:20pm

I'm interested!  Next year?  I've been flying solar hot air balloons with GSM tracker.  Yesterday flew one it went 20 miles then came back landing 10 meters away.  Coincidence?  Any explanation?  Questions?

Comment by mms.with.her.chickens on November 3, 2011 at 5:40pm

We built our bard, but it won't power up. The connection from the battery only uses the negative terminal. Is this right?

 

Comment by geogeek on May 6, 2012 at 5:44pm

i like to thank you for your excellent work, i like to know if when the Blimpduino 2.0 will be available ? because i would like to wait for it :), thanks in advnace :)

Comment by Amit Saxena on July 3, 2012 at 11:32am

Hi Chris and others,

  I love this idea of an indoor blimp for kids to play around with. However I have a safety concern. If you have toddlers at home they will naturally try to run after it and could get hurt by the thruster fans. Is there a way to allay this problem. Perhaps by putting a small cage around them ( not sure how much it will affect the thrusting) or by putting some electronics that the fan will immediately stop if it detects touch. What do you think?


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on July 3, 2012 at 12:03pm

Amit: I've got loads of toddlers and it's not an issue. The motors are so weak that the props stop on contact. Not even a scratch. 

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