Airpup is a small kite balloon designed for quiet, long-duration flight in most weather without the restrictions placed on drones. You can read more about Airpup on my blog, get Airpup on Crowd Supply, and download Airpup's assembly patterns on github.
Airpup is stable and maneuverable. At 37 cubic feet of helium, Airpup takes about 60% of the gas needed to fly a Balloon Mapping Kit. Payloads up to 500g fly in winds from 0mph to surpassing 20mph.
I've been enjoying taking aerial video using a phone gimbal.
Airpup navigating the air between kites at the Lincoln City Fall Kite Festival:
Airpup's design grew out of the ways people have used balloon and kite mapping, and the issues they faced moving helium tanks, moving inflated balloons and long kites, and flying on their own schedule-- not the wind's.
I wanted to combine the reliability and simplicity of a balloon with the ability to fly in higher winds like a kite. I also wanted to make payload attachment simple, so there are few strings to get tangled and no stabilizers to set up.
Kestrel 5500 weather station, Feiyu SPG gimbal & phone, Canon camera is mounted on an Aerobee Bracket
Although the resulting balloon is more expensive than a rubber balloon-based kit, Airpup packs down small and can be borrowed by mail.
I walked the balloon and tank 4 miles round trip to the beach. At 25lbs, it was manageable in daypack with a hip band.
Using a Kestrel 5500 from my Aeropod, I recorded the winds in 30 second averages and overlaid them on the video.
To simulate higher wind speeds, I do tow tests by bike:
Airpup will come with a flat winder. The winder's figure-eight winding doesn't cause line twisting. Its narrow profile fits in a mailing tube.
Line can be tossed off of the winder for smooth line control.
Previously in kite balloons
This project has been on my mind for a while. A kite balloon featured in the first real-world conversation I had with @warren and my first time e-mailing with @danbeavers. A DIY kite balloon was the first thing I flew with @gonzoearth and @olivia, and the wiki page for a Kite-Balloon Hybrid was the first thing I posted to Publiclaboratory.org in January 2011, trying to collect @warren, @liz, @eymund's experimental designs with some sources I'd collected.
Flying a kite balloon with Stewart Long and Olivia Everett, March 2011. It flew alright but leaked helium over 20 minutes and got stuck in a tree
The project didn't go very far because we couldn't seem to make a small, lightweight balloon that both held helium and held up in the force of the wind. Our DIY mylar balloons were taped together and all leaked. The heat-seamed plastics I was working with couldn't hold pressure. A double envelope on top of a rubber balloon was over-weight. Party balloons weren't big enough to be kites and hold a camera. The manufacturer we worked with at the time, the now-defunct Southern Balloon Works only had 4 mil polyurethane that was too thick and heavy to make anything small. The idea of a Helikite-like balloon, as @warren and I talked about, was still under patent.
- @Valerie Balloon Kite design and prototype
- @Eustatic Sketches for "Corset-Chiton" idea for Pufferfish mod
- Making a balloon making jig