A new Zeppy team

Posted in General at 12:08 pm by Tessa

The current members of the Zeppy team have been working on the autonomous flying robot for a year now (Zeppy actually had his birthday last Friday!). We are now at that moment in our lives that it is time to graduate and we are all going to do this in the United States! Of course we would not want Zeppy to end up catching dust in a dark corner of the robot laboratory, so fortunately we are now in the position to introduce a new Zeppy team! Dirk, Joel, Margreet and Wouter can not wait to start a new project with Zeppy and we think their fresh enthusiasm will do our flying robot a lot of good. We wish them the best of luck and lots of fun!

The new team, Zeppy and us:


(f.l.t.r: Tessa, Jaldert, Tijs, Matthijs, Dirk, Joel, Zeppy, Margreet and Wouter)



Posted in General at 12:54 pm by Tessa

Last week we were invited by Jan Hut from ITC Platform Noord to let Zeppy fly at the CeBIT, a huge IT fair in Hannover. We were very happy to travel to Germany and show our robotic blimp to the world!

Without exaggeration, it was a huge succes! We came in contact with many interesting people and Zeppy was a real attraction, he made a lot of friends in the future park.

Below are some pictures and a movie!

The Future Park at CeBIT:

Tijs and Matthijs handing out AI flyers and baby-sitting Zeppy:
AI flyers

The big screen with our software:

The Holland stand:

Zeppy flying:

Team picture:

Zeppy was filmed by the makers of the CeBIT dvd!:

A video impression:



Posted in Software at 7:08 pm by Tessa

We wanted to be able to show a nice view from Zeppy’s camera on the big tv screen at the Bernoulliborg opening. Therefore we made a presentation mode for our blimp software. It shows the faces that Zeppy detected in the image by drawing a red square around them and it displays the most recently detected face in the upper right picture. The image in the middle on the right shows optical flow with green arrows that point out in which direction features in the image have moved. The lower right image shows Elementary Motion Detection (EMD)




Posted in Hardware at 7:05 pm by Tessa

Now that we have a blimp that actually flies, we want to show a schematic representation of the hardware in and attached to the yellow gondola of our Zeppy.

Exploded gondola: (click on the picture)



Opening Bernoulliborg

Posted in General at 5:21 pm by Tessa

Today, the new building (Bernoulliborg), that houses the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence departments of the University of Groningen, was officially opened. Zeppy was invited to fly around in the main hall! Everything went very well and he flew around for about two hours. The audience responded very positively and everybody was enthusiastic so we were justifiably proud!

A video impression of this day:

And some pictures:

Zeppy BasestationWatching and controlling Zeppy from the ground.

Our very own Zeppy-spot in the main hall.

Zeppy sure draws a lot of attention!

Who wants to touch Zeppy?

Floating in a freaky environment.
It’s lonely up There.

More Pictures..


It works!

Posted in General at 8:10 pm by Tessa

Building the motor drivers

Posted in Hardware at 8:06 pm by Tessa

We went to an electronics shop and collected a whole bunch of resistors, diodes, wires and off course enough IC’s to drive three motors. We constructed the motor drivers on the PCB as small as possible because we always have to consider the weight that our blimp can lift, and we did not take this piece of electronics into account when we measured and weighed the on board electronics. First we made it possible to drive one motor, because we wanted to test our construction and it worked! So we have good faith that we can drive three motors before this day ends! Meanwhile a lot of work has also been done in the software domain. Zeppy’s brain can already detect faces, see motion and determine optical flow. We can not wait to couple the software to our hardware platform and see what Zeppy does!

Home built motor drivers:

Home built motor drivers

Motor driver connected to the Gumstix, battery and motor:



Way small computing.

Posted in Hardware at 12:22 pm by Tessa

Today, our Gumstix arrived. This is a very very small computer which weighs only 9 grams. We are going to use it on board to drive the motors and maybe later even to do all the processing and make Zeppy really autonomous! Our first challenge with the Gumstix was to activate the Bluetooth, so that we could access our small computer. Some wires had to be soldered to the little machine, which was very exciting, fortunately the third time they were on the right pins! Now that we could access the Gumstix, we could try to drive some motors with them, but unfortunately it was impossible to do this directly with the Gumstix, which we had expected. The outputs could not provide our motors with enough power, therefore we have to insert motor drivers into the circuit.



Soldering a motor:

Soldering a motor


Calculate and build

Posted in Hardware at 5:57 pm by Tessa

After we mistakenly made a balloon that was far too big for our purposes, we decided make a detailed calculation first. Now, we know exactly how big our blimp has to be in order to be able to lift the electronics we need. So, again we sealed the balloon and filled it with helium. Zeppy flies again! But still, we are not quite happy with the quality of the hardware we now have, so we are going to use Gumstix to control the motors and try to find better motors and rotors.


Zeppy version HUGE!

Posted in Hardware at 2:56 pm by Tessa

During our measuring day we found out that we needed a bigger balloon to be able to carry more weight on our blimp, so we bought ourselves some plastic, borrowed a deep-freeze sealer and made our new Zeppy. We used some aquarium supplies to build an air-valve and filled the new balloon with all the helium we had left, which was not enough unfortunately. This was not due to our helium provision, but to the size of the new Zeppy, which was BIG, really HUGE! We really made a miscalculation with the design of this new balloon, because it could lift more than 500 gr (+/- 1000 lbs), which is much more than we need. When we tried to move this balloon with our original gondola and motors nothing happened, as could be expected. The controls were not strong enough for this enormous balloon. So, our huge version of Zeppy only lived a short life and had to make place for another blimp.

Sealing the new balloon:

Sealing the new balloon

Air-valve made from aquarium supplies and duct-tape:


Almost completely helium filled super blimp:

Blimp huge