Picture of Pico Blimp
Still 1.jpg
Is this 3 gram (total empty mass, including balloon) airship world's smallest RC blimp?

When a challenge is set to make something big or small (Mikeasaurus' This Month's Challenge: Big and Small) it is obvious for me to go for something small, as I love things tiny. And as there is one thing I tend to build smaller than most others, I went for the smallest RC airship ever. The idea of building a really tiny RC blimp had been lingering in my mind, but now a deadline was set. Obviously I also entered this Ible in the Remote Control Contest

As volume - and therefore buoyancy - decrease to the third power, building a small airship means achieving extremely low mass. This starts with superlight propulsion and controls. For my sub micro blimp I built propulsion and controls amounting to about 10g and for my nano air swimmer this was 6g. In this project I got it to 1.7g  for the version without fin. I'm actually curious if the result really is world's smallest RC airship. If you happen to know of any smaller RC airship, please let me know. At least I wanted to share how I approached the build and exchange ideas on small blimp projects.

Check this short video on the blimp flying in different configurations:

After an overview of gear and materials used, I refer to an inspiring thread in Step 2. As finding the smallest, or rather lightest, RC gear was the first challenge, I built up this Ible's steps around each of the different components, discussing their selection and use. This way you can not only learn how I built the blimp, but also how I made the choices and came to a configuration with one main thruster for moving forwards and upwards at the same time, in combination with a tail rotor.

Building and testing was spread over a couple of days, but it could be done in within one day. The build requires handling tiny parts and trimming off weight by less than a tenth of a gram. For me the hardest part was the precision soldering under a magnifying glass. However, in each step I did not only add tips for some further weight reductions, but also options for a slightly heavier, but more "plug-and-play" alternative.

Obviously this blimp is strictly for indoor use only. It is quite forgiving when flying. Even if you hit an obstacle or a draft sends it off, you can just keep flying afterwards. If you do pop the balloon, the light gear should survive the drop to the floor (It did in my case).

Many thanks for the votes.

Note: English is not my native language and feel free to point out any errors or strange word uses.
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catmandude20 days ago

I take it, that this is not the $13 blimp that got me to sign up in the first place.

masynmachien (author)  catmandude18 days ago
Eh, obviously. That is another Instructable.
smithraj1 year ago

pls details the used part... ie 1) Which Micro motor - rpm 2) which ESC 3) Which micro battery 4) which micro servos 5) Which Transmitter & receiver. pl send the details with link OR URL from where to buy this products... I like it very well.. pl send the details on sj28550@gmail.com Awaiting u r reply mail. REGARDS

masynmachien (author)  smithraj1 year ago
Thank you,
Please read through the Instructable and see al parts listed in Step 1 and the links to their sources already in the text.
Note the ESC come build into the receiver.
If you prefer an easier project to start with, check out my http://m.instructables.com/id/13-RC-Blimp/

Happy building!
mankhatha1 year ago
it is as easy as i thought but is it your imagination or sombodys dont cheat me it can be done by others right na but good try
austech2 years ago
Could this support a small solar cell for near-constant flying?
masynmachien (author)  austech2 years ago
I expect not. A this scale you would need a solar panel under .5 g, delivering at least 100 mA at 3.5V under indoor light conditions.
DSJesterXII2 years ago
Not the smallest. I've seen one the length of your hand.
masynmachien (author)  DSJesterXII2 years ago
Very interesting, please tell me when and where you saw it or tell me anything you can about it...

Actually without the fin, mine is just slightly longer than the average hand. I would love to learn more about building even smaller blimps.

dergraben2 years ago
I am very interested in nano rc control and blimps I was amazed by your beautifl 3g blimp 'blackzeppelin ' is it possible to see a video of its flights ? 'have you a site or a tutorial and the parts providers to build such a blimp ? thanks in advance for your reply best regards patrick
masynmachien (author)  dergraben2 years ago
Dear Patrick,

Thanks for your interest in my black pico blimp.

Actually the balloon and the optional tail are the only difference between the black "zeppelin" and the yellow blimp. The electronics, propulsion, steering and battery are exactly the same. The Instructable describes both versions.

The best footage I vave on the black one flying is at the end of the video embedded in the Instructable.

You can find details on the black balloon in "Step 7 : The Balloon". I used slightly less than half the length of a Qualatex Q646 (a large diameter modeling balloon as available through balloon shops).

In the meanwhile I also tried the Folatex "Zeppelin" balloons (type F-08146) and they work great to (no images, sorry). Their diameter is smaller so you need more length, but not that much more, as their proper weight is lower. I guess I used about 80% of the balloon, ending up with a balloon a good 60 cm in length.

If you have any more questions, just let me know.

And please keep me posted on your own builds.

Best Regards

scwirral3 years ago
I've just bought some mobile phone vibrating alert motors for a haptic feedback project. At £2 a time on Ebay, it would be worth trying them to see how heavy they are as they are very cheap and easy to get hold of.
masynmachien (author)  scwirral3 years ago
I guess the motors I used are originally intended for applications like a mobile phone vibrating alert.

I would appreciate if you can tell me the weight of the ones you bought. If you can not weigh accurate to 0.3g, tell me the size, so I can guess if they are anywhere near the 0.3g of ones from the MicroAntriebe. Some vibrating alert motors weigh a whopping 2g or more (measured without the excenter weight obviously).
altrobot3 years ago
Would it be possible to wirelessly transmit the power the electronics need to work?
masynmachien (author)  altrobot3 years ago
I do not think a Pico Blimp is a good candidate to apply wireless transmission of power.

You would need a coil picking up the power, beating the low mass of the battery used (about 0.35g). And this is considering the transmission is constant enough to eliminate the battery completely.

I could imagine its use on a somewhat larger blimp, but then my guess is the kind of power the blimp needs (still about 500mW still), is not easy to pick up at a distance of meters, unless you're using a dangerously strong power transmitter.

What would be a nice project is to have a wireless charging station for a somewhat larger blimp, were it flies very close to the charging system to recharge a battery. This could be useful for a robot blimp in particular.
How about a docking connector for recharging, using the magnetic connector off a mac idea? You could even build in an auto repel function in to the tower to push the blimp away when charged / launched.

The passenger Blimps of the early 20th Century docked on towers, and at one point it was expected that they would be regularly docking with the top of the Empire State Building.
masynmachien (author)  scwirral3 years ago
Indeed, such a connector would probably be significantly lighter than a wireless charging "reciever" coil.

Of course it is still an extra, so not for the extreme lightweight Pico Blimp, but it could be very nice for a slightly larger sister ship.
Cool 'able , i want make a one , but i can't find parts in Egypt :D
masynmachien (author)  Mahmoud Alaa3 years ago

I couldn't find most of the parts in Belgium neither.
I had to order them from the different sources, mentioned in the Ible like, with the main ones MikroAntriebe in Poland and Aether Sciences in France.
Cool 'able , i want make a one , but i can't find parts in Egypt :D
21GeeOff213 years ago
looks cool. excited for the video.
masynmachien (author)  21GeeOff213 years ago
The video is added now.
very cool
francisroan3 years ago
could ya tell where to get the parts??
masynmachien (author)  francisroan3 years ago
As mentioned, where to source the parts is discussed in the steps of the Ible. :-)
Links are included. Sadly, there is not one source for all the parts.