New to arduino, please help get me going in right direction!

Hi, sorry in advance for my ignorance, I'm electrically challenged lol. I'm more in the physical world with metal and hammers and stuff. New to arduino and have a special project that may benefit from this technology. I'm restoring a 30 year old personal blimp. It was originally designed for the comedian Gallagher to fly around on stage with, it has pedal power and a large tail fin to control yaw. So, what we want to do is remove the pedal power and replace with lithium powered fans. We initially thought a main thrust fan with a small "bow thruster" to control direction would be best, but that has evolved into instead having two thrust props midship that are on a common axle to be able to point up and down. This will give us the ability to climb and descend, and when pointed aft we can provide thrust to move forward.

Now we have a twin screw setup similar to what boats use and as such we can use differential thrust to steer and we won't need the giant rudder. Helium is expensive so any possible weight savings must be taken.

So, what I'm envisioning is a control system that involves a stick in the right hand which when pushed forward and back will manually rotate the thrust motors on their common axle for up/down flight. When the stick is moved left/right it will be moving a potentiometer that will give more thrust on one side vs the other to turn the craft. Then there's a wheel on your left side that will give general thrust input, from a negative value that "should" work for reverse (reversing propellers gives inefficient but sufficient thrust backward)

The final part of the challenge is that blimps are naturally "course unstable" so we would like the arduino to provide an autopilot function that will maintain the heading hat the stick is left in when centered. It will have real time override from the steering pot to turn and as soon as the stick reaches center again it will try to maintain that course heading.

I can see this solution in my head working great, but I don't know how to achieve this using the abundance of technology today.

The thrust motors will be RC grade plane 48VDC which have their own proportionate controllers

Thanks for any help getting me in the right pond.

The White Dwarf? I don't know enough about Arduino yet to help ya out with this one, but I'm going to subscribe to the thread to see where it goes!

I have to chime in, as an aviation enthusiast. All of this is doable with the Arduino, no problem there. But you don't want to do all the work ie. reinvent the wheel. So I point you to ArduPilot. It's and Autopilot system of RC planes and actually it has been built on top of Arduino, hence the name Ardupilot.

http://ardupilot.org/

Good luck and blue skies.

Very cool, I'll check that out. Yes, this is the white dwarf. It has been in storage for about 10 years since it's last envelope was destroyed. Now, we are looking at full restoration and modification with updates. It's an exciting project for Sure!

aslak: I have to chime in, as an aviation enthusiast. All of this is doable with the Arduino, no problem there. But you don't want to do all the work ie. reinvent the wheel. So I point you to ArduPilot. It's and Autopilot system of RC planes and actually it has been built on top of Arduino, hence the name Ardupilot.

http://ardupilot.org/

Good luck and blue skies.

If Ardupilot is adaptable enough for a blimp, nice! Depending on what the OP wants to do, a blimp autopilot might almost be easier to code from scratch rather than modify the rather complex ardupilot (not sure how hard that is). For simple course keeping, an IMU with good integrated sensor fusion for the compass and gyro is super easy to use. Whenever your stick is in the center, save the course at that instant and steer to keep the bow pointed there :) I've used the BNO055 for my UAV project, it's easy to use and stable, if a bit expensive.