Posted in Uncategorized at 4:11 pm by Jaldert

Today we did a presentation for the staff and other interested people on our Blimp project. This was the final milestone of our blimp-adventure.

Now we are all very busy with making the final arrangements for our Master’s project in the United States. The new Blimp-team will have their first official meeting this week, to decide on practical goals for the future of the project.

We wish them the best of luck, and hope that they will enjoy the project as much as we did!

Click here to see the slides that accompanied the presentation (requires shockwave flash).


Zeppy on television

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:16 am by Matthijs

Logo of RTV Noord Well, we’ve had our 15 minutes of fame! Drop all your science-work: Hollywood, here we come!

But seriously: we’ve been on regional television with Zeppy! As part of a show called “De week bekeken” (”A look at the past week”), we’ve answered some questions about Zeppy and Artificial Intelligence in general. We also showed some of the capabilities of Zeppy and have flown around with him. As you’ll notice when viewing the clip ‘we’ are still the ‘old’ team, but the new team is also very busy with Zeppy, so you can expect a new blog-post from them soon.

Click here to see our tv-performance! Zeppy is only talked about in the first 5 minutes and it’s all in Dutch

We’ll hopefully receive a high-quality version of the video-clip very soon to replace this one.

Also, next wednesday (april 9th) at 13 o’clock, we will hold our final presentation about the project in the Bernoulliborg in Groningen!


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:

Zeppy and the JJC

Posted in General at 12:00 pm by Matthijs

To show what can be done with AI, our studentgroup Cover organised a small colloquium for the first year students of Artificial Intelligence and Informatics, as well as other interested people. This was called the JJC, which is a Dutch abbreviation for the lower-years colloquium.

And guess what?

Zeppy was the subject of this colloquium! We had prepared a short 30 minute presentation to show what the project is about and how it all worked, which was held by Matthijs. You can view the slides of this presentation at the end of this blogpost!
And of course we held a demonstration, flying over the heads of the students, showing the software and hardware.

Despite a somewhat low turn-up there were a lot of enthousiastic responses as well as quite a few interesting discussion points!
It’s nice to see people react so positive and interested to the things we do, it keeps us focused as well! ;)

View the slides of the presentation by clicking here



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..



Posted in General at 2:27 pm by Tijs

Hi there! Long time no see.. We have been rather busy (with Zeppy among other things), and we decided to focus on improving Zeppy, instead of updating the weblog.

What have we been up to, then?

New gondola
We’ve built a new home for Zeppy’s electronics. We built a gondola which contains the camera, motors, the gumstix computer, and the motor drivers. Underneath the gondola there is room for the battery. We use the lid of the butter-packaging as a dock on the zeppelin, so we can easily attach and detach the hardware from the balloon.

Zeppy Gondola

New motors
The motors that we borrowed from the toy-blimp just were not up to the task, since they were very noisy but not very powerful, and the rotors had a habit of coming loose in mid-flight.
So we bought three new EDP-20 motors with fitting rotors from a local shop. Since these motors are often used for model airplanes they are actually too powerful for our needs, but thanks to a little voltage regulation circuitry we can now easily configure the power of the motors.

Zeppy flies.. Beautifully!
New gondola, new motors, some programming, and.. Zeppy is airborne! - Even better: The steering is now very direct and responsive. For the first time, we can really fly our home-made blimp, and make it go wherever we want it to go.

Us looking at a flying zeppy.
Docking station
One of the motors is pointing downwards, and every time that zeppy lands or stands, he’s standing on this motor. To spare this motor, we’ve built a little ‘docking station’ for Zeppy. He looks very happy in his new home!

New balloon with logo
The university is enthusiastic, and we’ve been approached for some demonstrations in the near future, so we’ve decided to make a new better-looking balloon, with a logo on it.

We’ve got a new robot lab!
Our AI-department recently moved to a shiny new location, which houses a brand new robot-laboratory. Moving our delicate hardware and accessories was a bit problematic, but thankfully everything arrived safely. We had some funny looks riding our helium-filled canister to our new home!
The new robot-laboratory is large enough to merrily fly a zeppelin around. We can now fully appreciate our new motors, Zeppy can approach amazing speeds! The nasty sprinkler But, as it is with every change there are also downsides to our new playground, because all new buildings have to fulfill local fire-department regulations, meaning that they have to have sprinklers in every room.
Have you ever looked closely at a sprinkler? Have you seen the nasty sharp edges? They are sharp enough to cut right through an unsuspecting Zeppy.

We are still working on solving this problem, together with the building managers.

Sonar Sensor
In order to get a good measure of Zeppy’s height, we decided that we wanted to outfit Zeppy with a sonar sensor (Devantech SRF02). The sensor is amazingly light, weighing in on only 4.5 grams. We have already done all the soldering, and we are now working on reading the I2C data that the sonar supplies, which is somewhat tricky.

Basic sensor-motor coupling
We have created a lot of filters for the camera-images, which all output features. These features are based on motion detection and color-space information, for example.
Using the machine learning package WEKA, we extracted some basic rules as to when the zeppelin is flying to low to the ground. Applying these rules in the brain of Zeppy, will hopefully lead to a step closer to making Zeppy autonomous.

Zeppelin on other planets

And last but not least we made a nice movie of a zeppy roaming on an imaginary planet


It works!

Posted in General at 8:10 pm by Tessa