3D Robotics

BlimpDuino home page


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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  • Ive been looking for a board / software page for the beacon . Is there one anywhere?
  • Is wireless communication of any kind is possible with the provided board that comes with the kit?
    Feel free to correct me if I'm not asking this question right.
  • Wow! Cool. Thanks for the quick reply, Chris. I presume (from the photo), if I want RC (and do not want to wait for the RC kit) I will need to purchase the Futaba R156F receiver, which I see priced at TowerHobbies for $60.00. Will I also need the "short crystal" ? I was also considering buying the "Futaba 6EXP 6-Channel FM R156F/No Servos 72MHz" for $129.00 from Tower Hobbies. What is your opinion on that controller? Will it grow with me as I acquire skills, or is it too basic? Thanks, Steve
  • 3D Robotics
    We'll be offering a version with battery, charger and RC equipment for about $150 in a week or so.
  • Hi, newbie here. I am a pilot - single engine land and ultralights, also a network engineer by trade. However, I have zero RC experience and limited funds. Want to buy the Blimpduino, but first need to know what it will cost for the most basic RC controller, so that I'm not just running it in autonomous mode. Any recommendations greatly appreciated. Thanks!
  • 3D Robotics
    Those foam pieces are fins. You can put them on the envelope if you want, partly for looks and partly for directional stability. I never bother.
  • Almost done w/ our BlimpDuino .. it's been an educational experience for an RC newbie. I'm wondering about the white, thin foam board (cut with a pop-apart crenelation pattern). It's roughly triangular shaped, there are 4 pieces when separated-- they were sandwiching the mylar envelope in the package. Is that supposed to be a gondola or what? Seems like it's for something, but what? I don't see mention of it anywhere in the instructions.
  • I'm using the lightmax 500 battery, so I soldered a 2 pin header instead of the supplied connector. Plugged in the female cable backwards. DOH! dumb mistake... C1 blew up in flames,

    Consider adding a diode between the power source in a future revision for dumbasses like myself :)
  • Hi Chris,
    I mean the digital and analog input / output pins/ports of the microcontroller. What I learned is that the arduino has 18 digital I/Os und 5 analog ones. I wonder how much of these are still free to use on the blimpduino?

    And did anyone test how much extra weight could be liftet withe "balloon" supplied?
This reply was deleted.