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Nanoblimp is definitely no Hindenburg

By

March 14, 2013

Two Nanoblimps, engaging in aerial warfare in an office

Two Nanoblimps, engaging in aerial warfare in an office

Image Gallery (2 images)

Instead of shelling out for a complete radio-controlled plane, why not just add a powered propeller and steerable rudder to a paper plane of your own? That’s the thinking behind PowerUp Toys’ PowerUp 3.0 kit. Now, Canada’s Plantraco MicroFlight has applied that same sort of thinking to blimps. The resulting Nanoblimp, billed as “the world’s smallest RC blimp,” uses a plain ol’ party-variety helium balloon as its gas envelope.

The Nanoblimp gondola incorporates three propellers (each driven by its own electric motor) that allow the blimp to move up or down, forward or backward, or to pivot left or right. That gondola is simply stuck onto the underside of a balloon using double-sided foam tape. Tiny magnetic ballast weights are then added to the gondola, until the blimp has reached neutral buoyancy – it neither rises nor falls on its own.

The Nanoblimp gondola and controller

Users control the blimp via two joysticks on the included 3-channel Nano-X controller, which doubles as the charger for the gondola motors. It can be set to any of four different radio frequencies, which allows multiple Nanoblimps to be flown in the same room without interference. As can be seen in the video below, this makes it possible to engage in aerial dogfights, in which thumbtack-equipped blimps attempt to pop one another.

The complete kit sells for US$49.99, which includes one gondola, one controller, and ten latex balloons (just to get things started). Users are responsible for supplying their own helium tank, and four AA batteries for the controller. A reusable Mylar balloon is also available for $9.

Source: Plantraco via The GreenHead

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
11 Comments

Of course the main problem is the scarcity of helium.

Jimmy the Geek
14th March, 2013 @ 01:43 pm PDT

In the USofA you are much better off buying the Mylar balloon because the rapid decay balloons forced on us don't contain helium worth squat despite the scarcity of helium issue is vastly over-hyped.

Slowburn
14th March, 2013 @ 06:03 pm PDT

About $40 buys you a disposable low-pressure helium tank that can fill about 30 balloons, from places like toy stores etc. I've had a few in the past - got them in Australia from "Spotlight".

christopher
14th March, 2013 @ 07:32 pm PDT

If the scarcity of helium is overhyped, why are so many people who need it for such things as medical scanners so concerned about it?

Mel Tisdale
15th March, 2013 @ 05:37 am PDT

The controller looks like something from the 1990's...come on guys.

Roma Khudoleyev
15th March, 2013 @ 06:51 am PDT

I forecast that RC " airships" will become a much bigger succes than RC helos & airplanes ,due to lower cost & bigger endurance

harrysmatical
15th March, 2013 @ 07:53 am PDT

one could always use aluminum foil , a 2 litre bottle with drain cleaner (zep crystal or red devil) for hydrogen version...HINDENBERG...

Kwazai
15th March, 2013 @ 10:09 am PDT

For nearly 100 years the US government kept a strategic helium reserve, both in large pressure tanks and pumped into porous underground rock formations.

Why? For all the blimps and dirigibles the military hasn't had since WW2, just in case they ever decided to use lighter than air vehicles again.

Recently, the keepers of the gas decided to get rid of it, at a really low price. A lower price than what it costs the oil companies to capture and compress the helium that comes from many oil and gas wells in the USA. That was one of our strategic advantages during the blimp and dirigible era. We had abundant helium, Germany, Italy, Japan and other countries on the other side did not.

So with the government dumping helium at below market value, that strategic reserve has become the only supply - but they aren't pumping it out fast enough to meet demand.

And that's a lesson in why government controlled markets, combined with the usual government inefficiency and bumbling, are super bad for a nation's economy.

The government controls the price AND is keeping the commodity scarce, which in a free market would drive the price up to the point where anyone with helium in their oil or gas wells would invest in capturing and compressing it.

Instead of saving it, the oil companies are just letting it gas off, much like the burning flares of low pressure gas that would take more energy to compress and transport than can be obtained by burning it.

If IR photovoltaic cells and Peltier technology improve quite a bit, that low pressure gas could be burned inside a chamber lined with both technologies to generate some electricity, at least to provide part of the refineries power needs.

Gregg Eshelman
15th March, 2013 @ 11:24 am PDT

A handy tool for terrorists wanting to deliver a stick of gelignite...

nutcase
15th March, 2013 @ 06:35 pm PDT

re; funglestrumpet

Because they fell for the hype. Helium can be extracted from the atmosphere on an industrial bases but it is not cost effective because it is cheaper to extract it from natural gas and the USofA dumping its strategic reserve is confusing the situation. Plus people like to panic.

Slowburn
15th March, 2013 @ 06:40 pm PDT

" until the blimp has reached neutral buoyancy – it neither rises nor falls on its own."

Video clearly shows the balloons rising and falling on their own. So BONUS! I guess.

Joseph Boe
20th March, 2013 @ 08:50 am PDT
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