I posted this on Facebook, but completely forgot about posting it here on the blog. This was our final project for ME 106 (Mechatronics): an autonomous blimp drone that was designed to be self-powered and avoid obstacles.
This video is our first test flight, and after the demo we had a little fun running down the batteries. (Please excuse the coughing, I’d caught a horrible cold right in time for the final project demo and was hopped up on tons of cough syrup.)
We got our inspiration from the Blimpduino project, an open-source autonomous blimp drone powered by an Arduino, but this is our own engine design and our own code. If you’re bored, feel free to read our term project writeup.
We had a number of last minute disasters with this project. You’ll notice the um, creative use of balloons? Due to cost (helium is expensive, yo) we could only fill the blimp the day before the project was due. Naturally we discovered we’d vastly overestimated how much lift we’d have. Instead of one RC blimp balloon….well, you see what we had to frantically tape together to get the thing to work.
The other big disaster was we originally had two sensing systems on board: an IR sensor to detect the ceiling (to maintain level flight), and a ultrasonic sensor for range-finding. Except my partner accidentally broke the ultrasonic sensor three days before and we couldn’t get a replacement in time. IR has a much shorter range than ultrasonic does (80 cm vs 12m!) so our blimp got really myopic. Also it meant we had to scrap all altitude control which made flight really unstable.
However, we powered through and got the damn thing to fly, which I’m pretty proud of. This was a really fun project, I loved it.