Broadcasting Live Video on an RC Blimp

June 29, 2017

RC Blimp with LED Screen

If you’ve ever seen the movie Blade Runner: It’s like that.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about: Blade Runner depicts a dystopian future in what has become a classic Sci-Fi film. Among the thought provoking depictions of technological capability in the future, an omnipresent blimp lazily drifts through the city’s skyline, all the while looping through advertisements displayed on a large TV screen that’s abundantly visible.

We can build you a blimp like that.

While the film uses the blimp to contribute to an oppressive tone, the concept of aerial video remains compelling for benevolent purposes. The point in drawing the parallel is to recognize that what was once depicted purely as a hypothetical in a distant future is actually a completely obtainable set of cost-effective hardware. And while we’re fully capable of producing a turn-key blimp that enables advertising for your business on a flying television, the mystique, the rarity, and the draw of attention all remain constant despite how overwhelmingly possible this now is from a technical and monetary standpoint.

And It’s a Drone

Here’s the kicker: the flying TV is on a drone.

This may seem obvious, but the implications are important. The idea of a drone is that it’s a scaled down version of an actual aircraft used for real-world applications. Drones are obviously smaller and more portable than their conventional counterparts, but the scaled down size constrains what the aircraft can be used for. While planes and helicopters typically provide a transportation medium for cargo, the same lift capabity is not possible with a drone, and so the possible usage scenarios change entirely.

Not so with a blimp.

Blimps provide an easy way to climb in altitude with little energy expenditure and can stay aloft for long periods, but they inevitably fly slowly. Therefore, blimps are used commercially almost exclusively for videography or advertising.

If that blimp is scaled down to the point that it doesn’t have enough lift to carry a crew or a large gondola, its usage pattern still hasn’t changed. And in fact, given the advancements in the last few decades with wireless data transfer, computing power, and ever-smaller hardware components, it’s arguable that full-scale blimps are already antiquated.

The point is: you can hypothetically buy your own Goodyear Blimp for your business.

Live Video

As of this writing, we haven’t made a huge effort in selling these systems to clients, so the videos here show only samples of what’s possible. The video below was a quick test with a small screen on a stationary blimp. We recorded the test, and it’s viewable below.

A few things to note about the video:

  • There’s a good chance you’re not a fan of the music, but some programmers just love to rock out
  • Our newer screens have better color depth and higher contrast
  • The resolution on the video is notably low; a production system would produce a clearer picture
  • The video doesn’t prove a live video feed, but live video is well within our capabilities

Technical Specifications

As it stands, we still need to continue iterating on our design to reach our target of 360p quality video, but it’s currently trivial to play live video on a sheet of 4,000 LED’s, or a screen size of about 48 pixels tall by 83 pixels wide. Larger displays are possible but would also require additional setup fees and a non-linear increase in hardware costs.

LED screens can be used in conjunction either with our conventional blimps or with a tethered setup.

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