Nanoblimp is definitely no Hindenburg
By Ben Coxworth
March 14, 2013
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.
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.