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I like big blimps, I can’t deny… Today’s gift guide is a little different, it’s for the Makers in your life that like blimps. I looked around the web and didn’t see any blimp gift guides, so here’s the first and only that I know of. This year we added our own autonomous blimp kit to the Maker store, I’m in the middle of building one now and it’s a lot of fun – a great gift for youngsters and oldsters – included in this guide is our latest issue with the blimp bot (pictured above from monkyatomc’s photos), the kit, a comprehensive book on airships and some RC controlled blimps.


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Blubber Bot Robotic Inflatable
Price: $99.99
Buy: Maker store – Link.

Part of a family of “Transitional Species,” Blubber Bots are Do-It-Yourself robotic inflatables that navigate autonomously and intelligently. They are light-seeking helium-filled balloons that graze the landscape in search of light and cellphone signals.

Designed into the inflatable form is a set of light sensors enabling them to seek out the brightest light source. They are also equipped with a phone flasher and can recognize cellphone activity. You can interact with a Blubber Bot by making a call and waving your phone near it. In response, they will go into a flocking dance or sing you a special tune.

Social and friendly in nature, Blubber Bots like to play. You can invite other Blubber Bots over for a party to watch them flock and mingle. They propel themselves using helium buoyancy and two-directional motors. They are a little clumsy though and tend to bump into things. Fortunately, Blubber Bots are born with a feeler (bump switch) to help them out of tricky situations. At a flick of the “feeler”, they back up and head in a new direction.

Not only do they like to play, but they love to sing. Blubber Bots have a unique voice generated from a vibrating motor and a small piezo speaker attached to their mylar bodies. They bellow sounds similar to a whale’s song and serenade you with melodies. When not being played with, they rest while tooting periodic sounds in their sleep, dreaming until they once again are awakened.

  • Detailed tutorial here – Link.
  • Check out Blubber Bots on Flickr – Link.
  • What happens when one of these gets loose at Maker Faire? See the rescue here! – Link.

Sadly this Blubber Bot escaped to the atmosphere once back at the Make labs, you will be missed. Coinincedently, UFO sightings in Sebastopol, CA increase that day.


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MAKE volume 12
Price: $14.99 (on newsstands now) or subscribe to MAKE – Link.

In MAKE v12 we cover the new blimp bots in our article “Escape of the Blubber Bots” – Jed Berk’s autonomous blimps are on the move. MAKE Volume 12 is shipping to subscribers and if you are a subscriber you can read it now in the include (free) digital edition… – Link.

If you don’t have MAKE you can start with the latest volume (12) by subscribing and you’ll get access to the digital edition right away too. Since you’re reading this on the MAKE blog I can give you a special code that takes an additional $5 off (USD) it’s CMAKE and it will get you MAKE @ $29/year, that’s half off the cover price. Click here to subscribe and get started with MAKE! Volume 12 is our best one yet!


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Sky Ships: A History of the Airship in the United States Navy by William F. Althoff
Price: $79.99
Buy: Amazon – Link.

From the Amazon review “William Althoff, has written a comprehensive history of US Navy airships from the first blimp, DN-1, to the termination of all airship activities in 1962. When writing this history, the author had access to numerous sources including letters, interviews and tape-recorded information from former airship officers. For example, Appendix D is a copy of the Confidential 1959 letter from Captain Marion H. Eppes (former Commander of Fleet Airship Wing One) to the Chief of Naval Operations giving his recommendations for airships in the Navy.The result is a well documented, well written account of a weapons system that due to politics and budget considerations never realized its true potential.”


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Ride on Airship Alberto
Price: ???

A ride on the The Airship Alberto on a recent flight — a 205,000 cubic foot hot air blimp with a unique “double-umbrella” envelope structure. On July 20 the FAA granted an exemption request to the personal blimp team (Skyacht Aircraft) and they can take (unpaid) passengers. Not exactly a “gift” yet, but awfully close! Maybe next year.


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RC Blimps
Price: $50+
Buy: Draganfly Innovations – Link.

RC (Radio controlled blimps)… Radio controlled, indoor, helium airships are safe, very easy to fly, fun for all ages, and light enough to cause no harm when bumped into household objects.

Have others? Add them in the comments!

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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