The Eden Flybot

Not built by an LMA member, but this is a fascinating application of large modelling techniques. Well worth inclusion in the featured aircraft section of this website.

Flybot is a remote-control helium airship designed and developed by Tim Macmillan of Time Slice Films that is being used in the Humid Tropics Biome at Eden, to monitor and research the steadily growing tree canopy. Standing at 4.5 metres long, 2.2 metres high and 2.2 metres wide, it has two sections: a gas envelope above and a keel section below. The gas envelope has two ‘skins’ – the outer is made of silvered Mylar which has a mirrored finish, the inner skin is made of polyurethane – giving maximum helium retention and safety (some trees have thorns!). The gas envelope is designed to be a rigid pressure structure to maintain constant buoyancy.


The keel section has a carbon-fibre frame and is also covered in the mirrored Mylar. It houses all the batteries, motors and control systems. The innovation here has been to shield all the moving parts (the propulsion fans) from the outside – working in close proximity to trees and branches could be catastrophic. The keel also carries a two-metre probe which projects forward, at the end of which is the full-resolution video camera and pan-tilt head. The airship is powered by state-of-the-art lithium ion batteries which should give it two to three hours flying time before battery change. As these batteries will charge faster than they will be used up, we should be able to maintain almost constant flight.
Flybot carries three video cameras – a full-resolution micro-DV camera on the probe, plus two miniature cameras to give views forwards and downwards. There are two microwave transmitters giving two channels of video to the ground. The airship is controlled by two people on the ground – a pilot, who controls the movements of the airship, and a camera operator who controls the DV camera.
Initially flights will be in about half hour periods building the length of flying time as confidence in the battery performance with the new motor is obtained. For flying, the important thing is to spread the load so the more trained people the better. At the same time continuity of flight schedule is required so a rota of say 4 Flybot Volunteers to supervise flying ops, monitor helium top up, battery status and the general condition of the craft and her power units would be a huge help.

So are you interested in flying this machine? If so, please get in-touch at the address below.

Carola Vorlop
Volunteering Coordinator
Eden Project
PL24 2SG

Tel.: 01726 818785


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