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Inspired in part by the Plantraco Nanoblimp, Instructables user masynmachien built this impressive 3-axis ultralight R/C blimp gondola. With an 11″ latex balloon filled with helium, it will carry its own weight of about 10g; with a 14″ balloon, he reports, “it has a payload capacity for a miniature camera.” The thrusters are driven by subminiature R/C servos that have been stripped down to bare motors with dangling circuit boards and potentiometers. A tiny 80 mAh lithium-polymer battery is the heaviest single component at 2.5g.

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.



  1. John Radi says:

    Someone should start marketing these instead of those little remote control helicopters that are so hard to control and have a short flight time, this thing would cost less and fly for a lot longer time.  I would make it as BYOB (bring your own balloon), and you just tape your balloon to the bottom of it.  that way, you could get a new balloon when it runs out of helium.  

    1. I have seen the exact thing you describe.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is a much better fit in my house than a huge flying clown fish!

  3. Russell says:

    I would like to second the suggestion that this be turned into a BYOB style kit. It is a wonderful idea, and I am likely to build one… BUT my less technically gifted friends and family are all going to want one when they see it. In order to avoid setting up a production line in my house, could we have a kit please? :-)

    Thanks for the article.

  4. Daniel Kim says:

    Is there any kind of R/C controllable air valve? At times I think of a micro-blimp of this type that would use an air-filled balloon as a reservoir for compressed air for propulsion. Small nozzles connected to the air balloon, which would hang below the helium balloon, could be opened and closed to emit air to direct the movement of the blimp.
    Does this sound like a bad idea?

    1. Russell says:

      Well, Daniel, The valve wouldn’t be the problem. You could rig a standard servo from another RC application to trigger a valve. The problem I would see with this would be the extremely small amount of flight time you would have based on the content of a single balloon. In a windless space, with nothing to interfere with your experiment, it would probably work ok. But if you had to expend that small amount of storage on overcoming the air currents in an office, I don’t know that it would last long enough to be any fun.

      No matter what the outcome, it would still be a fun experiment to get the valving to work.

      One more thought: It would need to be a much larger balloon than used here, in order to support the added weight of the valves, servos and air lines.

    2. Dan says:

      Using air jets as a propulsion source sounds great, but I do see a few problems. One would be as Russell said, tough to control & of limited duration. But I see the most difficult thing being the changing buoyancy as you effectively offload the compressed air, the balloon would get lighter & you’d find it difficult to maintain altitude. (ie the balloon would want to float to the ceiling. That could, however, be an effective means of compensating for a small loss in helium over time, which undoubted is going to happen, though perhaps not inside the 1/2 hour or so flight time a battery would provide. More problematic though with any control mechanism on a helium envelope is that the load supportability is quite small to begin with (a few grams), so adding more systems to the vehicle is not desirable.

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