Sunday, December 09, 2012


I'm interested in quadrocopters, but the flight time is too low. So it occurred to me that there must be other solutions out there - blimps are fairly cost effective to run, right?

After a bit of searching, I found two interesting things.

Not quite enough payload here to run a camera, though there's a microblimp version too.

Would be well suited to indoor area traversal.
Need it to track a user? Well... string does pretty well, tied to a belt loop.

Instructables comes with a DIY version.

Practical applications
Most drones and airborne platforms are focused on looking from a different location. That's not the only thing you can do with a low cost indoor computing platform.

The CSIRO have a clever 'guide balloon' for escorting visitors, obviously the people above are using these for games (ie: dogfighting).

Given enough buoyancy, could a small blimp based solution become a small goods delivery platform? A litre of milk (~1kg) requires about 1 cubic metre of helium to offset the weight, the main problems then become the return journey (do you vent the helium when the payload is no longer there? Substitute it?)

Unfortunately, there's also a bit of a shortage of helium.

Hydrogen comes with its own shortcomings, but lifts at about 1.2kg/cubic metre. There's certainly folks out there launching weather balloons, which with a few modifications and a heavy enough payload could certainly double as a blimp.

That's not bad for a vehicle starting at  $45 or so.

I'd be quite interested in seeing:

  • The "shopping trolley" balloon system, which is is tethered to you and used to carry light cargo inside of an indoor space (probably not practical from a size vs payload POV)
  • The floating virtual assistant
  • Hybrid copter/balloon solutions, to increase payload/flight time (half a cubic metre of hydrogen + existing copter platform = 600g of lift - enough to just have the copter "chill out" and use rotors for directional thrust)

What are the downsides to such a platform?
What would you do with it?


Darren said...

So right now a blimp with a camera would be perfect for me. my house has a lot of trees and I want to install solar panels. Installers tell me I need to cut down my trees, but if I could get time lapse photos of my roof throughout the day then I could get the optimal position without cutting trees down.

Dan said... is worth a look as a starting point to get an idea of how much you'd generate vs cost.

Trees are really going to make the whole situation a bit ugly though - any shadow is going to make less power be generated.

I would say go look at nearmaps, as at least it will have a number of dated photos taken at different times to give you a bit of an idea.

Blimp, camera, and brick + a few points of stabilisation? Or even simpler, just a car dash cam ($30-70 on ebay)?