In a Blimp of an Eye.

This project was the eye catcher of my Artist In Residency at Instructables.

As RC blimps are my passion, I definitely wanted to do some blimp project during my stay at Instructables.  When I came across the Dension WIRC system, the lingering idea of building one with live video feedback became a real plan.  The Dension WIRC (for Wi-Fi Remote Control) is a plug-and-play system to control remote control models with an iOS or Android device and send a live video stream to the device.

It is very easy to set up and use, but at about a 100g, it is rather heavy compared to my other blimp projects. Taking in account an extra 100g for propulsion, batteries and construction, I went looking for a readily available balloon with a lift capacity of over 200g. A 3ft latex balloon turned out to balloon carry 180g to 330g depending on the diameter it’s inflated to (2.5ft resp. 3ft). It also turns out these balloons can hold for weeks, coming close to the performance of foil balloons.

From the spherical shape (and from watching Doctor Who) sprung the idea to make it into a large eye. I named it ‘In the Blimp of an Eye”.

I tried to keep the build as simple as possible to make sure to have a functional end result. I was a success, be it that it is very sensitive to drafts and controlling it was quite a challenge. I will discuss some ideas to improve on that throughout this Instructable.

Here is video (I converted the recorded mjpeg with VLC, but with quite some quality loss):

I dedicate this Ible to Noah, for managing the AIR program like an unstoppable force of nature during the very busy time involved with moving Instructables to Pier 9 and at the same time being a warm host to us artists.

And I thank Audrey for the great main picture.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

RC Gear:
  • A Dension WIRC system complete with Wi-Fi dongle and USB camera.
  • An iPhone, iPod, iPad or Android device.
  • Three analogue micro servos. I started with the 8g Turnigy 1800A Servos, but replaced one with a slightly more powerful Radio Shack micro servo. After this build I would recommend slightly more powerful servos (like 13g ones).
  • I tried a gyro (a HobbyKing BA Nano Gyro 2.3gram) to improve flying straight out, but I’m not convinced it helped at all.
  • A servo extension cord at least 15cm long (I used ones far longer than needed).
  • Connectors and wires (two times) to go from the battery connectors (classic red JST ones in my case) to the WIRC sockets (the WIRC accepts Futaba or JST type servo plugs).

  • A 2s Lipo pack minimum 250mah. I used a Turnigy nano-tech 260mah 2S 35~70C Lipo Pack but it broke down immediately, so I switched to ZIPPY Compact 350mAh 2S 25C Lipo Pack
  • An additional 1s Lipo (I used a ZIPPY 240mAh 30C Single Cell) or a 1.5 A BEC ore use 7.4 V compatible servos.
  • A suitable charger

  • A 3 ft. latex balloon, white (I got mine at SF Party).
  • Helium, one fill needs 0.35 Nm3. A large one-way tank would be cutting it close, not leaving any room for error or experimenting. Also helium in one-way tanks is usually only about 85% pure, giving less pure an it’s quite expensive. So I recommend to have the balloon filled at the balloon shop if you can transport it safely or to rent a tank.
  • High-Float to treat the balloon for a better helium retention.
  • Optional: balloon shine for … keeping the balloon shiny.
  • Gap filling CA glue (i.e. medium thickness).
  • A piece of extruded polystyrene sheet (commonly known under the brand name Depron). You can use a 3 to 6 mm thick sheet, the size of the iris, about 40 cm in diameter.
  • A roll of Sellotape (Scotch tape).
  • Some thin double sided tape.
  • Acrylic paint, black and whatever colours you want to use for the iris.
  • Some string to close the balloon and holding it down when working on it.
  • Some non-hardening clay (putty) as ballast to trim the buoyancy.
  • For the frame I used plywood, 4 mm thick, 30 by 80 cm.

Total costs amount to about $ 300 to 400 depending on sourcing and not counting the iOS or Android device obviously. All gear but the Dension WIRC was available at the Hobbyking US warehouse.

  • A Phillips 0 or 00 screwdriver to hack micro servos
  • A pump or compressor to pre-inflate the balloon
  • A hobby knife
  • Some fairly fine grit sandpaper
  • A small paintbrush
  • I used a laser cutter to make the frame, but I will discuss alternatives.
  • I used an Objet 3D printer to make the propellers, but you can buy and use small and cheap propellers like these.
<p>Hi!<br> I'm also using a Dension WIRC in my project .<br><br>But sometimes when I connect the Dension WIRC to my I pad mini, It doesn't show the images a camera. I'm still able to control the motors, but the screen is just black.<br><br>I'm using 2 camcorders (C170) that's connected by a USB hub. Switching the camera's also doesn't work not all of the time. But being sure that 1 camera works is more important.<br><br>Do you also have the same problem as me?<br><br>Or did you already solved it?<br>sorry for my bad English</p>
<p>It could be the cut-off voltage for the camera, which is usually set higher than the overall voltage cut-off (see the manual to find these settings). So when the voltage is dropping to low the camera(s) stop working, but the rest still does.</p><p>If this doesn't help, try contacting the people at Dension, They are quite helpful.</p>
<p>Thank you very much.<br><br>I've already done that by setting the minimum voltage to 5 V.<br><br>I'm using a 12V battery to power the Dension, and 5V to power the servo motors.<br>But I still get the camera problem. <br><br>I'll try to contact the people at Dension.<br><br>One question did you update you're dension to the new firmware or what firmware do you have?</p>
<p>I didn't update, as it did work. I don't now what firmware I had. The one I used is at Ibles HQ now, so I can't check.</p>
Everyone goes &quot;Oh helium, helium - must have some helium.&quot; <br> <br>But while the natural density of hydrogen and then helium is very low, there are many other gasses, that are low density as well, meaning a sack full floats or rises in the air, and because of the molecular size, they basically do not leak out of the material they are put into - or if the material is atomically porous, the leakage rate is very, very low - compared to helium. <br> <br>And they are relatively cheap and easy to get and use.... just mind the static electricity and sources of ignition - and everything will be well. <br> <br>http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/gas-density-d_158.html <br> <br>Air 1.293 Kg/m3 <br> <br>Hydrogen 0.0899 Kg/m3 <br> <br>Helium 0.1664 Kg/m3 <br> <br>Methane 0.717 Kg/m3 <br> <br>Ammonia 0.769 Kg/m3 - ammonia is good fun - sure clears the sinuses &gt;:( <br> <br>You could build an airship filled with methane - relative to air with a density of (rounded up or down for convenience) of 1.3Kg per cubic meter, with an airships displacement of 1 cubic meter (neglecting air ship weight), that would have about 600 grams of lifting capacity. <br> <br>So 10 cubic meters of thin plastic garbage bags - with at least some kind of reasonable rate of ascent, you could lift 5Kg. <br> <br>But the helium - 10 cubic meters of that could lift 10Kg. <br> <br>(load rounded down by 1Kg to give positive buoyancy) <br> <br>Methane in the crude industrial grades, is dirt cheap, and readily available - comparatively speaking. <br> <br>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flammability_limit <br> <br>Methane <br> <br>Lower Flammability Limit in air 4.4&ndash;5% <br> <br>Upper Flammability Limit in air 15&ndash;17% <br>
Sure, there are cases where other gasses, flammable gases, can be used for lighter-than-air applications with little risk. <br>But I wouldn't use for a 300 liter indoor blimp.
I'm so glad I got to see the prototype! Great use of the most attractive but uncomfortable seating available.
The Eyes have it!! <br> <br>It's brilliant!
Hello! what can I use in the place of a laser cutter?
As mentioned in Step 4 you can layer some thin wood strips or carbon fibre rods and glue them together in a curved shape.<br><br>Or you could use a contour saw on the plywood and drill a lot of holes to make some kind of lattice structure.
I love that ' bench' your on in the first picture! <br>That one goes on the ' to make in the far future, when I have my own home'-list. <br>Had to be said...
The Instructables/Autodesk office is beautiful and has more cool furniture, like a swing meeting table hanging from the ceiling :-)
I was drooling at that too. So much love. I think we need an instructables tour!
I would hang on the back side something to represent an optic nerve cluster :) <br>Looks great..
You didn't bring this to Kerkrade MF, did you? <br> <br>Eyebelievable project, douze points!
Thanks!<br><br>It's still keeping an I on Instructables HQ.
It needs extra, smaller eyes...
... and teeth.
It took me a while to remember the Monty Python monster, but yes, that is some great inspiration for a next build :-)
Monty Python?<br> <br> You're my age, how do you not know about <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/search?safe=images&client=tablet-android-samsung&hl=en&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=zhwwUsnuMNOThQeB74DgCA&q=beholder+dungeons+and+dragons&oq=beholder+d&gs_l=img.1.1.0l3j0i5j0i24l6.154419.154753.0.156486." rel="nofollow">Beholders</a>?
Beholders? I know the fellas in the link you gave as an annoying green eyeball monster from a certain movie about Monsters...
I think I first saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail on a student organised movie night and later again on DVD. I still love it.
I had a sudden urge to shout out - &quot;I AM NOT A NUMBER ! - I AM A FREE MAN !&quot; <br>
Well done! A detailed and complete instructable. You spent your time at Instructables very well. Nice to see the people behind this website through an other eye.
Love the project - and the eye design is great! <br> <br>Just for reference, if you ever need to lift even larger payloads then a massive range of weather-balloons are available. Best source in the UK that I know of is Random Engineering: http://randomsolutions.co.uk/Random_Aerospace/Balloons.html <br> <br>Want a balloon with an 8m burst diameter? They are your guys!
Hi nice project! Often thought of something like this. Didn't know that a small baloon is able to carry that much weight. Should have calculated or tested this.
As a rough estimate one liter of helium at atmospheric pressure carries one gram.
Amazing job, Yvon!
this is soooo awesome!! :D
That is awesome. Always watching... You should call it the NSA Blimp.

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