What Would $1 million worth of RC Blimps Look Like?

September 18, 2017

Blimps in the Dystopian Future

The Seen RC Blimps with the Unseen Potential

Airships have historically been associated with wealthy benefactors, whether from governments or from large companies. It becomes interesting to consider that no large players have seriously dabbled in airship sponsorship in what is now almost a century ago. It’s then worth highlighting the disconnect between what is seen of RC blimps today and in particular with our own company and what we would be comfortable to define what is in the realm of possibility given a large budget. The underlying theme to highlight is that as crazy as any $1 million project involving RC blimps may sound, from a purely technical and pragmatic standpoint that same project is completely reasonable.

The Large Stadium Scenario

Sporting arenas irrevocably require four particular things:

  • Security
  • Entertainment
  • Marketing
  • Video Streams

This should almost require no imagination to consider the above requirements and how blimps could address those concerns. The only opinionated definition is that a network of blimps, rather than one large blimp, should provide the solution.

Assume for the sake of argument that all technical hurdles are addressable.

Blimps, both indoor and outdoor, can provide active surveillance in large crowded areas. Their omni-presence would create deterrence to malicious activity, and their ability to move slowly from a permanent place of high ground and carry heavy sensing and video equipment would effectively serve the needs of security personnel.

Entertaining and marketing are both standard features of blimps. At this point, we’ve demonstrated the ability to play live video on an RC Blimp. Simply offering another form of jumbotron in an unconventional fashion creates an unparalleled experience, but these setups can also provide an eye-catching method of advertising. Stadiums are also known to have engaging events with the crowd during short intermissions, and blimps become a perfect medium for games, prize drops, kiss cams, etc.

Implicit in any stadium’s operation is its actual broadcasting of a sporting event. Drones could offer naturally amazing vantage points to enjoy spectating a game, but because of safety concerns this is only imagined in a distant future. Again though, blimps outrival the more conventional drone counterparts because safety is less of a concern when blimps are inherently incapable of impacting at high velocity.

In such a context, there’s no real need to segregate different requirements on to different aircraft; you can simply build a fleet of blimps that serve both as entertainment mediums and sentries for security purposes that now maintain an innocuous yet firm presence. The same cameras needed for high quality video broadcasting double as security cameras otherwise, and as needs change throughout the game (security on entry and exit, no broadcasting requirements during intermission, etc) the fleet of blimps can dynamically adjust their respective individual roles to maximize the use of all assets.

From a technical standpoint, none of this is that far-fetched. Indoor positioning with specialized sensors have become both cheap and accurate, and our blimps use kalman filtering to merge sensory inputs into a cohesive perception of the world. No blimp would be directly controlled, but they would instead be flown in semi-autonomous fashions where onboard computing can deconflict the airspace and automatically avoid collissions. While a catastrophic scenario in a blimp is magnitudes safer than any other drone, the possibility of a catastrophic scenario can be overwhelmingly reduced by flying in a pre-defined stadium with established sensors. All flight would be extremely slow and controlled. You can also see some ongoing work with software assisted piloting.

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