BlimpDuino Competition Planned for Atlanta

Posted 23 Jan 2009 at 01:29 UTC by steve Share This

Vince Wilczynski, of U.S. Coast Guard Academy, wrote to tell us about an upcoming robot blimp competition that uses Open Source hardware and software based on the Arduino board:

University students are invited to participate in the "Aerial Robotics Demonstration" to be held in Atlanta on April 17 & 18 in Atlanta, GA at the Georgia Dome as part of the FIRST Championship. The event involves programming a custom circuit board attached to a small blimp to achieve a series of competition tasks.

The platform that will be used by the university based teams is the BlimpDuino, a very low cost open source autonomous blimp. BlimpDuino consists of an Arduino-based blimp controller board with on-board infrared and ultrasonic sensors and an interface for an optional RC mode, a simple gondola with two vectoring (tilting) differential thrusters, and ground-based infrared beacon. The history of the project is detailed at the project sponsor’s web site (

Read on for the rest of Vince's announcement with further details of the contest.

Twelve teams, comprised of university faculty, staff and students, will compete at the April event as a component of the FIRST Championship. Each team will be provided, at no cost, with the blimp control board, motors, sensors, IR transmitter, and blimp envelope, as well as the programming code for the system.

The project is open source, and uses the Arduino microprocessor which was detailed in a recent issue of Wired Magazine. Teams would need to cover their transportation and housing costs for the competition.

The competition will consist of a series of five tasks that test the team’s ability to achieve optimum performance in autonomous and manual control. Details of the competition will be forwarded to the competing teams. It is envisioned that the full set of competition guidelines will be developed in conjunction with the competitors as an open source dialog.

Interested participants can contact me (vincent.wilczynski AT for more information. The blimp kits are available and will be shipped to teams that commit to attending the April event.

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