As mentioned before, for the second version of our Minimum Blimp Jordi and I decided to mod a RC toy blimp on the grounds that it will be cheaper and more robust than trying to build the whole mechanical assembly ourselves (the aim is to have a fully programmable and hackable blimp UAV kit for less than $100). Jordi started with $15 toy (gondola shown above), ripped out the RC electronics and built his own Arduinio board, IR sensor package and added a Ping))) sensor for altitude hold. Here are a few shots of the first version (please forgive the protoboard disasters--we'll neaten it up for the next rev!)

Underside of the blimp gondola, showing custom IR sensors for navigation and Ping))) ultrasonic sensor for altitude hold. (enlarge to check out the DIYDrones branding on the IR board!)

Inside of the blimp gondola, showing the custom Arduino board. This Toy blimp just got a major brain transplant!

We'll be showing a more polished version of this blimp at the FIRST Robotics National Championship in Atlanta, April 17-19.

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Comment by Howard Gordon on March 19, 2008 at 8:15am
Chris -

Does that gondola assembly fit within your weight budget ? I measured 44gm with the electronics removed from the "Tri TurboFan" assembly.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on March 19, 2008 at 8:33am
Yes, I think so. If not, we'll move the gondola to one of our larger envelopes.
Comment by rad man on March 19, 2008 at 12:57pm
do you think hydrogen would be dangerous?
Comment by Howard Gordon on March 19, 2008 at 3:00pm
Hydrogen by itself is not flammable, but it combines with oxygen in the atmosphere to make a very explosive combination. So hydrogen can be quite dangerous, especially indoors, where it can't vent.

And for small envelopes like Minimum Blimp, the cost of helium is not so much.
Comment by rad man on March 19, 2008 at 4:16pm
well as long as i dont try to fly over a candle my ears should be fine
Comment by Howard Gordon on March 19, 2008 at 4:24pm
Not True ! The brushes from a propellor motor could generate a spark that provides ignition and blast-off.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on March 19, 2008 at 4:47pm
Where would you get hydrogen anyway?
Comment by Howard Gordon on March 19, 2008 at 5:04pm
Make your own with a large solar panel, some water, some plumbing, and good ventilation. There are videos on YouTube that give examples. I haven't seen any videos yet of what happens if you screw up, but it's just a matter of time ...
Comment by Jack Crossfire on March 19, 2008 at 5:44pm
Electrolysis of water gives oxyhydrogen, quite dangerous but useful for storing energy. U have to separate the hydrogen & remove water vapor to get something useful for a blimp.
Comment by rad man on March 19, 2008 at 10:44pm
actually i used to make it until i had an "incident" dont play with fire!

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