We always think that crossing the Atlantic in a blimp would be very serene — at least once they put heaters on board. The Hindenburg, the R-101, and the Shenandoah put an end to the age of the airship, at least for commercial passenger travel. But you can still fly your own with a helium balloon and some electronics. One notable project — the Blimpduino — has evolved into the Blimpduino 2. The open-source software is on GitHub. We couldn’t find the PCB layout, so we aren’t sure if it is or will be open. The 3D printed parts are available, though.
The PCB is the heart of the matter, a four-layer board with an ARM M0 processor, an ESP8266 WiFi module, four motor outputs, two servo motor outputs, a 9-axis inertial navigation system, an altimeter, and a forward object detection system. There’s also a battery charger onboard.
The standard set up uses three props: two for thrust and one for altitude. There’s a smartphone app and apparently, you can even have a copilot with a second phone. The lifting body is a mylar balloon with helium and they say the control is suitable even for a very large balloon. The altimeter data is from a time-of-flight sensor and there’s also a pressure transducer with temperature sensor if you want to measure higher altitudes.
We couldn’t embed the video, but there’s one of people flying the things through hoops on the website. You can, however, see a promotional video, below. As you might expect, payload capability is very low and so 3D printed parts have low infill and the board is made to be light.
Of course, our own [Sophi Kravitz] has been building her drone blimp army for some time and we are waiting for her attempt at world domination any day now. If you are in the mood for something lower tech, you can always rip apart a toy car and add your own balloon.