Ollie The Socially Awkward Autonomous Blimp

[Pritika] is a user experience design student who just finished up an autonomous blimp project designed to react to voices and communicate, “his friendliness and eagerness to be noticed.”

The instructable [Pritika] posted goes through the build – a 850mAh LiPo battery powers an Arduino Pro Mini, which controls two 3.6 gram servos. While not much in the way of electronics, the real beauty behind this build is the implementation. From watching the video of Ollie interacting with people, we’re pretty sure [Pritika] met her objective of making her pet blimp friendly and unobtrusive.

With quadrocopters getting so much attention as of late, it’s interesting to see development in lighter-than-air robotics. Our back of the envelope math (which is almost certainly wrong) tells us that Ollie’s ‘body’ can lift 60 grams when filled with Helium, and double that with Hydrogen. While this isn’t much lifting capacity, it’s not inconceivable that a slightly larger blimp could have more sensors or a live video feed, especially considering the 16 gram ornithopter we covered last year.

Check out a video of Ollie after the jump.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/23383025%5D

15 thoughts on “Ollie The Socially Awkward Autonomous Blimp

  1. How does it keep afloat? Not to mention going up and down? As the gas leaks from the balloon, wouldn’t someone need to constantly removing weight from the balloon? Make it carry water/ice/dry ice?

  2. @HackJack – It states the balloon maintains max capacity for 1.5-2 days at which point it needs topping up.

    I also suspect they overfill and compensate the additional lift by adding ballast (think they suggest clay in the pro-tip section). That way as it begins to deflate, you can remove ballast without dragging a cannister around everywhere.

    What I failed to pick up was the max potential weight for 36″ Helium filled balloon was.

    I would love to try something like this, but maybe build a lightweight frame around the balloon, and add some lightweight motors for propulsion rather than servos, although I see the appeal in the flappy-fish look.

  3. Wouldn’t it be simpler/more efficient to use regular motors rather than servos to make him flap? at the very least it would be simpler to program. Though perhaps the servo method is the lighter of the two options since even if you only used one motor to power his ‘wings’ you would still need to create some mechanism to make it flap.

  4. Nice Post!

    Boise State University basketball used to have a RC bow blimp. The thing was *big*, maybe 12 feet long, black and white, jersey cow with a big smile on her face. It would fly around the indoor stadium and drop free tickets on the crowd. I really loved that cow blimp.

    I often dream that an autonomous blimp could really liven up the bullpen I work in. Maybe this is just the thing for that.

    My design uses large slow counter-rotating props above the air bag to help it go up and down. The “wings” on old ollie look, well, awkward :-)


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