Mini `doughnut-blimp` leads the way at QCAT

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Designed by Queensland University of Technology avionics engineering student Bryan Huang, the blimp could soon guide visitors from reception to their meeting rooms.

Mr Huang has spent the last 12 weeks working on the blimp as part of his summer vacation scholarship with CSIRO.

“We wanted to try a doughnut shape to see if it offers better manoeuvrability indoors than a more conventional football shape,” Mr Huang said.

A modified party balloon, the one-metre wide blimp cruises the corridors using three propellers for lift and forward movement and a number of infra-red sensors to detect obstacles and walls. A pressure sensor, accelerometer and compass detect height, speed and direction.

For navigation, the blimp also uses a wireless sensor network. Sensor nodes are scattered throughout the building to help guide it around the building.

“It’s an application of what’s known as pervasive computing,” said CSIRO information and communication technologies (ICT) researcher, Phil Valencia.

“With these tiny smart wireless sensors all around the place measuring things, sending data and making decisions, you end up with a kind of embedded intelligence.

“Lots of people want to be able to do this so they can track animals, measure crop conditions or monitor household energy use, for example. At CSIRO we build the systems to do that and Bryan’s work is contributing to our other projects.

He said CSIRO’s summer vacation scholarships program provides students with the opportunity to experience how research is undertaken in the real world.

“In collaboration with experienced CSIRO scientists, they get to tackle some challenging problems using technology and systems they wouldn’t usually have access to.”

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