GPS Formation Flying Blimps 

Faculty Contact Jonathan How


This goal of this early project was to demonstrate that Carrier-Phase Differential GPS (CDGPS) can be used to accurately sense and control a cluster of spacecraft on-orbit. The research will concentrate on developing the GPS algorithms necessary to determine the relative position and attitude between multiple vehicles that can undergo general 3D motions with relatively large separations. These new algorithms will be used to demonstrate robust formation initialization and maintenance on a new 3D testbed that uses lighter-than-air vehicles to more accurately reflect the dynamics in space. The project was funded by Draper Laboratory, and ended in early 1999.

As noted below, we experimented with these blimps outside, and plan to use larger blimps as part of the DURIP testbed that we are developing. 

As seen on the BBC and the ABC
Blimp Movies Page (last set of new results was Sept, 98)
Some Extensions: Outdoors and our Truck Testbed at MIT

Photos from Oct, 1998

Formation flight testbed (End Station III)

Close-up shot of the two blimps

Top view (shows the 3 antennas on top)

Gondola showing the 5 motors and propellers (also red)
(1 forward + 1 vertical + 2 sideway & yaw + 1 vertical trim)

Early Photos (Aug, 97)

Flight data recorded Sept, 1998:

Flight Data (Automatic Landing)

Flight data (Formation Flight)

Other Applications:

Formation Flying Spacecraft