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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3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on June 13, 2009 at 6:59pm
Thanks, Jerry. The instructions have been updated to correct those points and guide those who got three of the other connectors rather than two of them and one of the inner.
Comment by Vinnodh on June 16, 2009 at 11:38pm
Hi, nice prootypeu have there, I am currently doing a project on Blimpdiuno. However instead of ulrasonic and IR sensors I am using a sonar and motion sensor.Can you elpme identify the codes needed tbe put into the arduino. This is the first time I am involved in such a project so I am quite uncertain about the processes.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on June 17, 2009 at 4:10am
What's the difference between ultrasonic and sonar sensors?
Comment by Mitch Patenaude on June 18, 2009 at 2:17pm
What would happen if you tried to use this outdoors? I have carpeting in most of my house, and have been considering using this outside with it ballasted slightly negative, so that I'm sure it will come down.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on June 18, 2009 at 3:00pm
It really can't handle any wind and the IR sensors won't work outdoors. So I'd only use it in RC mode and with a tether.
Comment by Mitch Patenaude on June 21, 2009 at 6:25pm
I'm thinking that using 4 of these sensors rather than the ir detectors would make for some interesting behavior. I would probably need to tweak the code for the slower readout rate.
Comment by R. Henderson on July 7, 2009 at 8:41pm
I may not have seen it, But does it have a programming application?

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on July 7, 2009 at 9:41pm
Bruno, I don't understand the question. It's based on Arduino and uses the Arduino IDE. Is that what you mean?
Comment by Kai on July 19, 2009 at 7:53am
Hello can tell me somebody how many of the ports are free on the blimpduino µc? And how much additional weight can the blimp carry? Would it be possible to attach a small digital camera to the blimpduino?
Comment by Kai on July 19, 2009 at 7:55am
And control it to make some pictures...

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