RC Airship as Drone

We've been developing this RC airship over the past two years. Features include 1 hr Endurance, 3-5 amp battery, 400g payload, camera gimbal, FPV, Low vibration, crash survivable, Helium recovery
and storage after each day of use.

Some videos:

Welcome to the LED - Long Endurance Dronehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMPtHGWouNQ
Brushless gimbal - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sqCBWNohug
Servo gimbal and MFD controller - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3glE5syuCI
Over snow - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joLNCG17uPU

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  • Hi John
    To clarify
    1) L to D ratio is 4
    2) Envelope material is different from helium storage material. 1m3 gives 400g payload. Metalisation reduces porosity significantly
    3) Helium costs per yr is about £80.
    4) Payload is protected by the envelope on heavy landings. More than pays for cost of helium which is stored between flying days.
    5) Solar power Possible for all day endurance.
  • @Marthin H.,

    the problem with blimps is -  they can't be small and efficient, just like quad's can't. 

    it seems your L/D ratio is 6:1? That's not a shape which gives you a smallest drag possible. I've done a study and, surprisingly, 3:1 is a way to go for near-ground winds. Since blimp is simply a prolate ellipsoid, your volume increases ^2 (squared) while reducing length and increasing the diameter. 

    In regards to envelope construction - default material is coated mylar - some 50uM tick. Rcgroups community claims it has lower helium leakage plus is lightweight. Maybe. For indoor use. 

    I've made a sealed bag of UV-resistant polyethylene 2 years ago. 200uM tick. Filled it with hydrogen. It keeps the shape still, but lost some surface tension. I wasn't able to damage it even by standing or bouncing with my ass on it (I'm 65kg). Of course, if won't float as its to heavy for its volume.


    On the other corner, my 20 liter Helium balloon in two years lost 70% of Helium. It diffuses through finger-thick metal more, than Hydrogen does through a polyethylene film (because H2 molecule consists of two atoms).

    Conclusions: For longer endurance and cost reduction by 3x, Hydrogen is the way to go. 150-200uM polyethylene. 2-4 m^3 (as your envelope will come at ~1kg).

    And sorry, I'm tend to disagree that such quantities of Hydrogen, and they way it is used is more dangerous than any multi-rotor drone with motors of <=1000kV. 

    My indestructible balloon
    New photo · Album by Flegmatoid Zoid
  • All units are imperial so mph,  ht - feet distance - miles

  • A blimp with an antenna tracker as payload would work great as a communications relay.

  • Is the speed in mph or m/s?

  • Hi

    two more videos 

    Hands free flight with KK2.2 controller for stability - pitch and yaw - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkOfRnTd73s

    Early test of MFD controller low quality video  but - check out air speed, ground speed, throttle setting and amps consumed on left of screen- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QF_rh5Z5zVg



  • Hi  All

    To answer a number of comments on the RC Airship.

    Graham Dyer -  Yes your correct about the high cost of operating with the type of RC airships that have been available for a number of years.

    That is why I developed my own RC airship withe the primary goal of reducing the cost and complexity of operation, to allow a typical drone enthusiast and or professional drone operator to benefit from the long endurance that it can provide.

    Key points-

    1)   Keep it as small as possible  -  1m3 Volume of helium is optimal, at current prices UK that is £10-15, even if       you have to deflate at the end of a flying day. Envelope volume can be increased with same payload bay to         provide longer endurance. Note the airship always operates heavy up to 400g, though 100g is optimal.

    2)  Recover and store the Helium with minimal loss -  I have a simple storage solution that allows ease of                  transport (typical family car etc)  and it takes 5 minutes to inflate /deflate.

    3)  Very survivable on hard landings for your payload /camera etc, the envelope acts like a giant car air bag and        any holes can be quickly and easily repaired, with min Helium loss.   The envelope material is light and can          be replaced (low cost), and as per point 2)  it is not the primary store for the helium, so any small leaks are          not an issue.

    4)  It can operate in up to 10 -15 mph winds, though like multicopters the calmer the better.  (most video footage       of drones on You tube all seem to be in calm conditions?). I will test higher speeds soon, check out my videos     for the airspeed and amps consumed for the current configuration.

    5)  Vibration free platform, engines located well away from payload so sensitive monitors can be carried.

    6)  Relatively simple components all off the shelf from commercially available drone suppliers.

    7)  Can utilise a number of different flight controllers I currently use a MyFlyDream for autopilot/way points and a        separate off the shelf camera Gimbal controller.

    8)  Great potential for solar power with Photovoltaic cells on envelope surface.  I will be looking at this with a local      Univ, endurance will then be all day.

    9)  I would look to keep costs of the platform at around £1000. 



  • Yes the advantage is tight, but there's an advantage, here's an article comparing hydrogen vs helium for real zeppelins : http://www.airships.net/helium-hydrogen-airships

    Another (small) advantage is that hydrogen can simply be released or burned after use without polluting, and produced the next time for almost free, while helium has to be stored somehow.

  • I forgot to say, congratulations Martin, your two years of work appears to have paid off.

  • Hydrogen only gives you about 4% more lift, its main benefit is its abundance and is therefore cheaper, but then when you add the cost of all of the safety equipment you need to refill the hydrogen you may as well go helium.  An airship as small as the one in the video wouldn't use much helium either, only a few cubic metres, so it would likely leek only about 0.1 cubic metres a day of helium.

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