Yet Another Robotic Blimp (YARB)

Frustrated by difficulties in achieving adequate stability with my coaxial and quad flyers, and inspired by the efforts of Chris and Jordi with their BlimpBot project, I commenced yet another attempt to defeat gravity with a robotic entity.This new project employs a relatively inexpensive 66-inch helium blimp from RC Guys, modified for direct motor control using the H-bridge built into the radio board portion of the SRV-1 Blackfin board set. The build was pretty simple - the only real challenge was in mounting the vectoring servo in the gondola. I would guess that I have spent 2-3 hours total on the build.

I haven't yet mounted my other sensors, but wlll be adding two Maxbotics EZ0 ultrasonic ranging modules (forward and down views) and an HMC6352 compass. First, I need to work out flight controls and invert the video feed, so all testing thus far has been with the blimp tethered.

Here's the first captured (inverted) video from the tethered blimp - it's not very exciting to watch, but I am using the motors to rotate the blimp. Untethered flight should follow in the next 1-2 days.
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  • If you just want to float, there are lots of balloon options. If you want the floater to move around under its own power, you will have a different set of challenges. Figure that 1 cubic meter (35 cu-ft) of helium will lift 1 kilogram (2.2lb) payload.
  • Hi, I'm new to all things floaty, but I'm curious- what are my options if I'm looking to carry a hefty payload? It seems that large blimps for carrying big payloads are expensive. Can weather balloons work as blimps? I want to build a floating boombox, and a battery to power that would be rather heavy for blimps I think.
  • I have an 800mAh 7.4V LiPoly, and probably get a couple of hours from a full charge.
  • Very nice blimp, we're thinking about basing a blimp off this design for a club project. I was wondering what batteries you went with and how much runtime you get out of the thing.
  • Developer
    I like your blimp, and the aerodynamics seem to be better (more solid).
  • Thanks for the suggestion. Brushed motors are certainly cheaper, but the Park 180 looks nice. I'll probably try these with some Losi reversible ESC's on YARB v2.0.

    By the way, I'm wondering whether I should stick with the "YARB" designation, or change to "YARA" (Yet Another Robotic Airship). Any opinions ?
  • If you want something really small the Park 180 is only 8.5g. Made for 3x3 direct drive prop.

    Personally I have a Park 250 and an Axi 2203. Either can haul a 180g model straight up on a 8x4 prop.

    Brushed motors might be better for a blimp because the start and reverse more smoothly. Just something to consider.
  • Gareth -

    What brushless motors do you recommend that weigh under 20gm ? For the blimp, we need reversible ESC's, though I just found this one - - that weighs only 7gm.

    For YARB Version 2.0, I will try the envelope that Chris recommended, as everything should be able to easily fit within its 130gm weight limit.
  • You can get some very light flight packs these days. We use 2S 300mah lipoly batteries for F3P indoor aerobatics. These are 20g. The small spektrum rx is only 3g. Each servo is 4.7g. An esc and brushless motor is about 18g-25g. So you can get a full house 4 channel foamy for 60g in flight gear. Runs for about 5 mins and is fully aerobatic. Like So:

    I think you could get lighter than 60g on a blimp payload.
  • It sounds like I could work with your envelope. For the moment, I'm set, but further down the road, I will look more closely at my weight budget.

    Again, the purpose of this exercise was to create a stable platform that could be used for computer vision and autonomous robotic navigation algorithm development. I've gone through a lot just to get my computer eyeballs off the ground, but it seems like I might have finally reached a useful starting point for the work I had planned.
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