Step 2: Determining the Weight and Choosing the Balloon

You can buy your balloon and/or have it filled with helium at any balloon shop or bring a one-way helium canister home.

I first determined the weight of all parts and added an estimate for the fin (that was not cut size at that stage) and for glue and cellotape.

item                                                           weight in g
3 hacked servos                                           3 x 1.7
3 propellers                                                    0.17
receiver                                                          0.68
80 mAh battery                                               2.6
33 cm rod                                                       0.4
battery lead                                                    0.3
depron fin (estimate)                                      0.5
allowance for tape and glue (estimate)         0.25
Total                                                               10

So the concept promised to be suitable for 11” latex balloon (a common party balloon) or any balloon with a lift capacity of at least 10g. Ballast is added to achieve the desired buoyancy and removed again to compensate for the loss of helium over time.

A fresh 11” latex balloon should lift 11g at least (according to manufacturers reference data for 300m above see level), but you will soon notice a loss in lift capacity. In balloon shops latex balloons to be inflated with helium are commonly internally treated with "Hi-Float". This makes them float longer.The one I bought lifted 14 g (about 30m above sea level).  I ended up using a 125mAh battery bringing the weight on 11g and allowing for about 3g of ballast. As expected regular trimming by removing ballast was needed and as after about 10 hours al ballast was removed. But that is not bad for a 1.5 EUR balloon.

A fresh 14” latex balloon however carries more than 20g so there is some room to last a couple of days (again with "Hi-Float"). For the camera version I had a 16” balloon with a lift capacity of over 35 g available.

Foil balloons keep their helium much longer (up to weeks and can be refilled), but have a higher proper weight, making the minimum suitable sizes larger. My favorite foil balloon for a micro blimp is obviously the Zeppelin NT as sold by the Deutschen Zeppelin-Reederei GmbH https://ssl.kundenserver.de/s7875334.shoplite.de/sess/utn;jsessionid=154edbeeba05160/shopdata/index.shopscript and lifting about 21g. A nice alternative, more commonly available is the 40” Letter ”I“. Its lift capacity of 18g is quite tight for a camera version, but it is possible without the camera or with an extra lean build (like powering both camera and propulsion from the flight battery, see last step).

A not on the helium: for these small blimps pure (99% or something like that) is strongly recommended as there is little buoyancy to spare. But where gasses like “Ballonal”, a mixture of helium with nitrogen used to be popular, nowadays almost all balloon shops work with pure helium.
<p>is there any circuit diagram available for the assembly</p>
<p>A circuit diagram is hardly applicable, as you do not make a new circuit. You hack the servo's OK, but you plug them in as you always do with RC systems. So the electrical circuit remains the same as in any receiver-servo setup.</p>
<p>Is there any Video tutorial available to explain, that how to assemble all the parts for this nano blimp model ?</p>
<p>No, Sorry.</p><p>Personally, I consider an Instructable to be more clear and easier to use as tutorial than a video.</p>
<p>did u actually own the interlectual property of this project because I found the indentical project on popsci source </p><p><a href="http://www.popsci.com/diy/article/2012-06/remote-control-airship-instructions-and-parts" rel="nofollow">http://www.popsci.com/diy/article/2012-06/remote-control-airship-instructions-and-parts</a></p><p>please excuse my grammer also I just wanted you to be aware of it because otherwise it could count as infridgement and therefore liable I am not from that sight I am just making sure your aware </p>
The popular science article is based on my instructable an was made with my collaboration.<br>Sadly enough they didn't mention Instructables in the article, even though I asked them to.
they sell stuff like this but not nearly as cool!
hi there. what would the total cost of parts be including the gas?
No. One fill, lastig about a day (8 hours), will be 1 to 2 EUR in a ballon shop. This cost goes down very much depending on the cannister you buy of rent.
Confirmed, the analog servo provides a better proportional response by a long shot.
(for some reason the captcha isn't working properly and I cannot reply to your reply) <br>I didn't shoot any video as I was running late this morning but I did put a prop on it and put a lot (90%) expo on the channel controlling the servo motor. I did get what seemed to be a proportional response. I am going to setup a little test rig with strips of paper to see how much wind is blowing in either direction at different stick positions. It seems to be more proportional one way than the other. I also plan to pull apart a hxt500 analog servo and see what that gets me. My friend who asked if I could make a &quot;mini blimp that poops coupons&quot; for her show is very excited. I think my step-daughters are going to like it too. I might have to make a bunch of these and have battles.
Hi there, I am building this sub micro spy blimp and I was slightly confused by what you are saying about digital servos. I have already hacked one digital servo and I am using a computer radio so I can center it with subtrim as getting the pot perfectly centered has been difficult. If I understand you correctly, I will get better proportional control by using analog servos? With the ability to set exponential curves I think I might be able to get a more proportional response from the digital servo but I haven't tried it yet. Have you? Thanks.
You got it right.<br><br>I once hacked a chinese servo that was supposed to be digital. It actually showed such a clear proportional response, I doubt it really was digital.<br><br>It's certainly worth a try. As you've already hacked one, mount a prop and see what it gives, just holding it. keep me posted.<br><br>
Do you know why there is a loss of heilum after the balloon has been filled for a while?
Because helium is a very small molecule and the balloon material is thin, it diffuses through.
gr8...!!! but i have a question though it is not related to the blimp but can u tell me how can i simply run my micro servo??? without arduino or something else......just with a batttery or little modification....??????
Thanks! <br> <br>What do you want your servo to do? Just run continuously in one direction? Run it from one direction to another or have it make controlled movements as a servo originally does (but without an RC receiver I suppose)?
yup...i want to run it continuously from one direction to another ..........and i also want to know that how can i make controlled movements without an RC receiver ?? <br> <br>thank u
Ok, you will have to choose: if you hack the servo for continuous running, it will no longer be able to make controlled movements, as the hack means disabling the feedback, which is the basis for the controlled movement. Start learning more on servo's <a href="http://pcbheaven.com/wikipages/How_RC_Servos_Works/" rel="nofollow">here</a>.<br> <br> To make controlled movements without a receiver or Arduino, you will need a so called servo tester. You can buy one ready made, build it from <a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/Simple-Servo-Tester/" rel="nofollow">a kit</a> or build it from scratch like <a href="http://www.helifreak.com/showthread.php?t=275749" rel="nofollow">this simple one</a>.<br> <br> Hacking a micro servo for continuous rotation, is done just the same way as for standard servo's. <a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/Build-a-Fridge-Climbing-Freedombot/step5/Modify-your-Micro-Servos-for-Continous-Rotation/" rel="nofollow">This is just one of many descriptions available</a>.&nbsp;Many hacks, like the one mentioned above are meant for use with a&nbsp;receiver, an Arduino or a servo tester. If you want to run it without, you need to remove all electronics and connect directly to the motor. Like <a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/Remove-a-Servo-Controller/" rel="nofollow">this</a>.&nbsp;With this option changing the direction of rotation is done by reversing the polarity, for example with a switch wired like <a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/SIMPLE-Polarity-Reversing-switch/" rel="nofollow">this</a>.<br> <br> I hope this gets you started.<br> <br> Succes! <div id="myEventWatcherDiv" style="display: none;"> &nbsp;</div>
Great instructable! I'm slightly confused though, which is probably due to my lack of knowledge about servos, when hacking the servo, do you literally just take out all the gears so that you're left with the motor and potentiometer, and then attach the input to the servo to the throttle output of the receiver, adjusting the potentiometer to get the trim right?<br>Thanks
Thanks!<br><br>You're close. Indeed, you take out all the gears and keep the motor and the potentiometer AND the servo electronics. The latter serves as reversible throttle output (with the potentiometer determining the middle zero throttle point). The servo's original lead is attached to any channel output of the receiver, just as a normal servo.<br><br>Some receivers have built in speed control, which you could call a direct throttle output. That is not used in this concept. It is used in the alternative shown in step 7, but then a motor (possibly also from a servo, but without the potentiometer and without the electronics) is connected to that output directly.
Ah! thus eliminating the need for ESC, that is simply genius :)
is there a way to use NO helium?
No, for a blimp, or any airship, there isn't. An airship is based on buoyancy (by definition), so you need a gas that is a lot lighter than air, and for safety it should be non-flamable. Only helium fulfills both requirements.<br><br>One can build airplanes or helicopters suitable for flying at home, in your living room, but that is something quite different.
another way to lose some of the weight is to replace all the wires with enamel coated speaker wire, like the stuff they use in headphones .<br>really liked this instructable! keep up the great work.<br>
Thanks!<br><br>Indeed, once you start soldering, enamel coated wire is the way to go.
Awesome work! thanks for the great pics!
Hi<br>Im intrigued about the filming aspect of it, so I went looking for a vid on YT of that camera - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEupsuwdFQo<br>This quality isn't half bad, and only has poor panning performance due to not being able to encode the rapid image changes, or no able to write to the memory card quick enough.<br>Are you seeing this quality, because I wouldn't be at all disappointed to see that quality in something costing a tenner!<br>
Hi,<br><br>I'm still not sure about water on the camera component itself. Will its lens and packaging protect the sensor? It could very well be, but I wouldn't be surprised if water gets in by some capillary effect. It should be dust tight, but not necessarily waterproof. What do you think?<br><br>
I added a video of the &quot;Spy Camera Blimp&quot; version, including some of the better footage from the 808 camera. My impression is, the motion blur is less in bright daylight, but quite severe under artificial light (as I used).<br><br>But indeed, at this price...
Hi<br>I actually bought one of the 808 cameras since your recommendation, thinking for the future as I want to build an RC blimp too.<br>I have to say, the footage from my camera is about as good as some of the YT vids make out.<br>Looking at the footage from your camera, I'd have to say your footage doesn't look as good as mine. The image quality is about the same, but yours appears to be recording at a much lower Frames Per Second rate. <br>It could be the camera itself, or it could be a very slow memory card.<br>I bought mine off Ebay for &pound;11, and I chose an auction that came also with a 4GB card bundled! <br>Dare I suggest it, but you might want to look at buying another of the 808 cams, or at least changing over the uSD card.<br>The footage is definitely lacking in the fine detail areas of the footage, but I really couldn't be much happier with it for the price.<br>I'm also thinking of getting hold of the slightly costlier genuine 720p models, which look really impressive for the price.<br>...<br>Is there any news on your wide angle lens yet? The angle on mine is quite limiting I have to say.<br>
Hi Heliospan,<br><br>In the meantime the lens arrived. I will test it soon.<br><br>Following your recommendations, I checked the micro SD card and although it is a class 6 (good sequential writing speed), it has a pretty low random writing speed.<br>So I will try and pick up a better micro SD card and do some tests.<br><br>Thanks for the input!
I did a quick test with the jelly lens. It widens the angle with about 25-30% (rough estimate). Far from spectacular, but it brings the view angle in a more &quot;normal&quot; range, instead of very narrow. The distortion seems limited.<br><br>When looking through with the naked eye I wouldn't call what I see a spectacular fish eye effect either. The distortion is more obvious at the edges. <br><br>With cap, string, jelly ring removed and eyelet cut off, it weighs 2.1 g. Maybe I can remove some more plastic.
Thats great though,<br>Whatever increase in viewing angle you can get, the better.<br>Can you let us know where you got this 'jelly lens' from?<br>I was thinking actually what if you put a small bulbous drop of water on the basic lens? I will get round to trying that myself probably tomorrow. Of course its not a very permanent or resilient solution, its worth a try and the surface tension might last for one whole flight.<br>.<br>For your info, the ebay seller bundled in the uSD card, its a non-branded ebay job, marked at class 4. But is clearly sufficient. <br>Whilst more expensive, its always worth going for a well branded card such as a sandisk. If the price gets a bit silly, perhaps its worth upgrading to a true 720p 808 keyfob camera! :-)
Fascinating idea, using a drop of water! I gues it will be easiest with the camera facing down. Vibrations from the propulsion might make the drop run down when the camera is not facing down.<br><br>Do you plan for any protection of the camera from water?
Oh, and I bought the lens from&nbsp;a Chinese eBay seller &quot;betterdeals255&quot;.&nbsp;It's described as a <a href="http://www.benl.ebay.be/itm/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=180728568348&ss" rel="nofollow">Jelly Lens Wide Angle Fish Eye For Compact Digital Camera iPhone CellPhone</a>.
*Follow up*<br>Hi<br>I just tried the drop of water approach, no real joy.<br>I used a very sharp implement and let a tap drip onto the end until a drop was suspended, then guided it into the lens opening. Tried this three times. <br>The first and second attempts resulted in totally blurred video, I had managed to smear the water all around the lens casing.<br>The third attempt resulted in a perfect dome of water protruding from the lens casing, It gave the video a well focused image, but it wasn't at all 'fisheyed' or wider at all, and it had the side effect of weird lighting anomalies entering the lens. I think part of the problem is that the lens is slightly recessed into the lens casing, making it difficult to get water right onto all the glass.<br>I also accidentally let a load of water into the keyfob casing, some of it got onto the circuit board, I dried it off, and its still working fine.<br>By the way, a simple dab with a piece of kitchen roll cleared the water from the lens completely, the quality has returned to normal, dare I say it, a little better!<br>Oh well, perhaps you might get better luck, its all down to getting the water to completely cover the lens glass, and make an almost perfectly round dome of water protrude, I got the dome, but it clearly didn't get to all the glass.
Thanks for the lens info. I'll look them up!<br>Yeah there could be an issue with the vibration.<br>But ultimately we're talking about only micro-litres of water, so it would be nearly impossible to short circuit any part of a modern production PCB. <br>The boards are designed with multiple layers of material, one of which is that green protection layer. Sure enough there are bare metal solder areas, but drops of water would have to miraculously bridge a connection between two of these spots to *potentially* cause an issue - but remember also that electricity always takes the easiest path, and an intact PCB offers the electrons a far better path to follow than through water with a relatively higher resistance.<br>Still I admit all this is theory only! ;-)<br>If you're concerned about it, I would imagine a small amount of clingfilm sandwich wrap, surrounding the camera PCB, would suffice.<br>.<br>Today I've bought myself some small props, and some 175mAH LIPO batteries from a nearby helicopter shop! My blimp build is nearly in progress! ;-)<br>
One other thing, my footage also appears to have better FPS than your footage even in lower lighting conditions. So I'd rule that out as a factor.
Pretty cute. I made one of these with the working gear from a Vapor micro RC plane after too many crashes. Pretty much just strapping the wingless airplane stick frame upside down to a balloon. Yours is more maneuverable though, and with on board video besides! Kudos!
Thanks!<br><br>If you wish, you could get almost the same concept as mine if you take the servo motors out of the receiver unit and fit them with propellors. You will need to solder longer leads, at least to the tail motor though.
Yeah, good idea. I was also giving thought to using a lightweight Sharp IR range sensor with an Arduino pro mini and making it autonomous. I would probably need a bigger envelope than the single party balloons I use. As it is I'm inflating the balloons almost to breaking in order to get neutral bouyancy. :-(<br><br>Yours is definitely the best method. Very, very clever!<br>
@masynmachien;Sweet! I love the Blimp camera view. Not only do the blimps work, you are expert at controlling them.<br><br>Cheers! <br>Site
Thanks!<br><br>The control is made quite easy by adding the tail fin.
This looks good fun, I might have a go myself!<br>BTW its sellotape, not cellotape, that must be tape for repairing a certain musical instrument! ;-)<br>
Thanks!<br>I made corrections. I hope I did not miss one.
such a nerdy thing <br>hihihihihi lol :)
Now that's a cool design. Very smart. Thanks
awesome project, congratulations on your great work. Do you have any ideas how you would get one of these to fly around on its own, without need for RC? Perhaps if it hits a wall it goes in reverse, etc. You would need some simple control. thoughts?
Thanks! And yes I have some ideas on autonomous versions.<br> <br> I see three approaches:<br> 1. Use a sensor to actively control height (set destance from the ceiling should be sufficient and relatively simple) and one or more front (and maybe back)&nbsp;sensors to avoid obstacles. The bouncy character of a balloon makes this all less critical.<br> 2. You mainly count on near neutral floating and bouncing from obstacles and give the blimp some purpose, some stimuli like <a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/Ollie-a-DIY-autonomous-robotic-blimp/" rel="nofollow">Ollie.</a> The path of the blimp will be &quot;bouncy&quot;, but it will get there. Actually that seems easier than option 1, as you take advantage of the properties of the balloon.<br> 3. A combination of 1. and 2.<br> <br> In any case I would protect the propellers from hitting anything (or use fins like Ollie). And as you will need more and somewhat heavier gear you will need a larger balloon, closer to conventional indoor RC blimps (range of 36&quot; round balloons)

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