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 July 21, 2010 at 6:06pm
David, sorry to hear about the missing part. PM me your address and I'll fedex you one.
Comment by David Schack on July 21, 2010 at 6:11pm
Wow, thanks for the very quick reply, I sent you my address. Thanks a lot!
Comment by Donald Webster on July 24, 2010 at 4:27pm
If anyone stumbles across a wild Blimpduino in the bay area with "Faceblimp" written on the side, it might be mine. It escaped today, you can find details at http://fryfrog.com/2010/07/24/missing-faceblimp
Comment by David Schack on August 1, 2010 at 3:54pm
I would like to mention for anyone interested, that I was able to get my blimp filled at Kroger (grocery store), for $2.99. This appears to be a much better deal than the party city helium tanks, though I can't comment on the helium purity yet.
Comment by David Schack on August 1, 2010 at 8:10pm
If I did the math right, it seems my blimp is getting 156 grams of lift (156 payload, not including the envelope). I did this by weighing the weights I was given with the helium fill, while attached to the balloon (They are on a nice pretty pink ribbon, I set the weights on my postal scale while still attached to the balloon, and it registered 1.5oz) and then while not attached to the balloon (7 oz) getting a difference of 5.5oz, which wolfram alpha tells me is 156 grams. I post my method here only so someone can tell me if I screwed up, as I seem to be getting significantly more lift than Chris' post here http://diydrones.com/forum/topics/blimp-envelope-payload, though I know that thread is quite old, and it is possible than the project has switched to a new envelope.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on August 1, 2010 at 8:30pm
@David. Same envelope. The lift just depends on the quality of your helium, your altitude, and how fully you inflate it. I used a conservative setting. If you inflate it really tight, it will just leak faster--it's not a sustainable solution.
Comment by Brandon Lock on September 19, 2010 at 9:10am
Hey Chris,
I'm really interested in buying a blimpduino kit, but it looks like it's sold out here and on Maker Shed. Any idea when you'll have it in stock again?

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on September 19, 2010 at 10:20am
Looks like we'll have to make a new batch. That will probably take six weeks (need to get some components)
Comment by Gaetanocosimo Massari on October 30, 2010 at 5:01am
Hey I would like to buy one or two blimpduino kits... I've also checked everywhere on the net but NOTHING! All out of stock! Please let me know when the kit will be ready... I've red 6 weeks from the September 19, so we are near to have new kits :)

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on October 30, 2010 at 8:01am
Stay tuned. We're trying to decide whether to make more of the current kits or develop a new version.

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