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Remote Control Mini Blimp!

Mini blimp flies through hoops! Features 3 DC motors/ propellers, battery charging, and wireless communication.

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This project contains some DC motors, battery charging, sensors and data. I liter of helium lifts 1 gram, so there is a weight constraint in the circuitry. Exciting!

This is a remote control blimp which is controlled by joystick.

One of the things I'll use this for is a blimp obstacle course. 

BlimpLi controller PCB measures approximately 110mm x 35mm and has 4 circuit modules.

  • Wireless communications using WiFi/ ESP8266 
  • Voltage regulator: VBatt (4.2V -3.7V) to 3.3V
  • Motor driver circuit for 3 motors 3.3V, 20mA
  • Battery charging circuit for 1-cell Li-Ion Polymer battery

Adobe Portable Document Format - 99.68 kB - 10/31/2017 at 21:20

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Adobe Portable Document Format - 54.13 kB - 10/29/2017 at 20:20

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  • 1 × MCP73812 Power Management ICs / Power Supply Support
  • 1 × AP2112 Power Management ICs / Linear Voltage Regulators and LDOs
  • 4 × capacitor 1uF
  • 3 × DC motors

  • PCB on a diet

    Sophi Kravitz10 hours ago 2 comments

    The blimp board that combines ESP, motor controllers, and battery charging is here!

    I assembled this in a few off hours before Supercon without the tools that I'm used to. Tried out a hot air gun for assembly for the first time and I really liked it for removing misplaced components. I think I'll stick with my pancake griddle for faster assembly though :)

    You can see (green area) where I ripped the USB port off the PCB and the traces too... a friend fixed it by adding a piece of the board he was working on to mine. <3

    I am going to redesign using a micro USB with legs so it doesn't fall off. 

    Also, the board is a bit overweight, but only by a few grams. I will have to see how I can reduce.

  • Rev 2 (posting for @davedarko)

    Sophi Kravitz10/31/2017 at 03:22 3 comments

    Here's a rendering of the new design. Might lose some of the diagnostic LEDs before sending it out. (Yes, I lost 2 LEDs before sending it to @oshpark ).

    Not really sure the best way to layout the ESP-12S...is the antenna in an OK place?

  • Boards are back, loaded, tested.

    Sophi Kravitz10/29/2017 at 18:48 17 comments

    I am in an extremely good mood. The board works with only one minor (haha) issue.

    It's overweight at minimum by 6.2 grams. For the volume of helium I'm thinking about using, the gondola can weigh no more than 14gr.

    I did the super swift service from @oshpark  - ordered on Monday, had boards back on Saturday. Boards look nice, I'd forgotten to put in a pull up resistor (charge light doesn't light) and there's that weight issue, but otherwise, pretty happy. The ESP8266 is not designed in yet, it's just on the scale to be weighed.

    NEXT REV:

    • Shave ~6 grams off of PCB.
    • Investigate diode on Vreg (drop is too high)
    • Add pull up resistor to PIN CE
    • Make connection points for batt and motors thru-hole

  • Propeller Sizing

    Sophi Kravitz10/24/2017 at 13:21 0 comments

    I'm looking at propellers today. I've sourced a tiny DC motor, which I'm running without proportional controls because I cannot tell the difference in speed at 3.3V. Also the motor driver I chose allows only for ON/ OFF operation. Seems like proportional controls give extra complication without much benefit. 

    Hobby propellers have two markings, the first one is the diameter size that it makes while spinning, the second one is pitch.

    The pitch controls the speed of the propeller. A higher numbered pitch means that the blade cuts faster into the air, and moves the aircraft faster. 

    The following is taken from RC Airplane world: the two arrow lines represent the path of each propeller tip. You can see that the higher pitch prop (eg 10x8) takes only one and a half turns to cover the same distance that the lower pitch prop (eg 10x4) takes 3 turns to. So, with both engines and props spinning at identical RPM, the higher pitch prop will travel further in the same amount of time - hence a faster flying plane.

    Thrust is the force needed to push the blimp through the air. The diameter of the propeller is related to this. The larger the diameter of the propeller, the slower the motor will run, the harder it will work, and more thrust will be created. 

  • Battery Charging

    Sophi Kravitz10/22/2017 at 14:04 0 comments

    I'm using the MCP73812 for battery charging. 

    I've decided to keep the battery charging on the blimp's gondola itself rather than dealing with pulling the battery on and off each time. I dislikeJST-style battery connectors.

    After leaving the battery on charge to test the circuit overnight, I discovered that this morning, the 1-cell 3.7V Li-ion battery was at 2.8V. !!!!!! 

    Update: while charging, the rest of the circuit was on, so the motor was on all night. In the next rev, I've fixed that.

    This is the circuit (*.sch in docs) I'm using.

    Good article describing Li-ion charging.

  • ESP8266 client to send/ receive data

    Sophi Kravitz06/28/2017 at 23:42 0 comments

    There's a sensor sending data to the ESP8266. That data needs to be transmitted to a web server, process that data, and make a visualization based on that data.

    Step 1: set up the ESP client software

    Step 2: set up the node.js server software

    Step 3: marry the client code with the sensor code

    https://diyprojects.io/esp8266-web-client-tcp-ip-communication-examples-esp8266wifi-esp866httpclient/#.WVZxFhOrrR1

    Public IP: Google what's my public IP and it will be first result

    Private IP: on Mac, it is in Network Settings, right at the top

  • BlimpLi controller rev 1

    Sophi Kravitz06/17/2017 at 18:51 0 comments

    This is a platform where multiple things talk over WiFi to a central server. One of the things I'll use this for is a blimp obstacle course. The other thing I'll use this for is to collect 20 people's heartbeats and use that data in a visualization.

    BlimpLi controller PCB will measure approximately 110mm x 35mm and have 4 circuit modules.

    • WiFi communications using ESP8266
    • Voltage regulator: VBatt (4.2V -3.7V) to 3.3V
    • Motor driver circuit for 3 motors 3.3V, 20mA
    • Battery charging circuit

    Rev 1 will be built in 2 pieces to make troubleshooting easier: 1) ESP8266, VReg, battery input and 2) Motor driver, battery charging

    ESP8266 design notes::

    • ESP-12S with 9 GPIO
    • Analog ADC 10-bit, 1V max value, use to measure battery power. Will not work while transmitting.
    • Understand startup modes (programming, normal, Flash)
    • Power, needs 3.3V to operate and draws max. 170mA
    • GPIO 6 - GPIO 11 not available, all others can be configured as input or outputs

    Programming::

    • Program over serial with TX, RX, VCC, GND
    • I think level shifting should be on my FTDI cable?

    States::

    • Startup, all pins are INPUTS
    • Normal run mode: RESET 3.3V, GPIO 0 HIGH, GPIO 2 HIGH, GPIO 15 LOW
    • Programming mode: GPIO 0 LOW, GPIO 2 HIGH, GPIO 15 LOW
    • Need switch on GPIO 0

    IO list::

    • Motor 1
    • Motor 2
    • Motor 3
    • LED 1
    • LED 2
    • Proximity sensor
    • Battery voltage

    Notes::

    • Thermal pad on ESP-12S does not appear anywhere on footprints around the web. Not sure if it is needed, but this thread discusses the pad on the ESP32.

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Sophi Kravitz wrote 10/22/2017 at 22:05 point

:) I'm excited too, I think making the circuit light enough to float is going to be tough!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Anil Pattni wrote 10/22/2017 at 20:35 point

This is so cool, I've been wanting to make a R/C blimp for the longest time. :)

  Are you sure? yes | no

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