Symposium Games – Dirigible Races

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This year’s Dirigible Races are going to be similar to the 2014 races with a bit of a different ending. This year we will have a course to follow in timed qualifying heats, followed by a head to head final race. The heats will be timed using a manually operated digital timing device. (Sorry but the technology for automatic timing is a little out of reach for us at the turn of the 19th century.) Airspace will not be a problem this year, the ceilings in the room you’ll be flying in are pretty high, and it is not expected that vents will cause much of a problem to navigation. Download the PDF of these rules

Buying or Building an RC Dirigible:

“Ready to Fly” dirigible kits seem to be a rare commodity these days. There seem to be only one supplier and they can be purchased from Amazon, or directly through a distributor called These are by a company called Dragonfly Innovations, but there may be one or two other brands to choose from for ready to fly indoor RC Blimps. It may take some Google expertise to find them. I must warn you though, that these Ready to Fly blimps haven’t been known to be very fast or maneuverable.


USS_AkronYour other choices are to either build your own from “scratch” using hobby grade RC electronics, or to use some other flying toy as a “power plant” and build it into a custom helium lift vessel. (Both were done at past Symposiums) There are flying toys that have multiple propellers for control that with a little engineering can be made to provide steering and elevation control to a balloon based airship. You may even find a way of using more than one flying toy, one for forward thrust and steering, one for elevation, or some other configuration. (Which would require teamwork to fly. . . Exciting!) If you’d like to talk to experienced builders, check out the Facebook Group “Steampunk Airship Racers”.

Note: All RC Dirigibles entered in the races and design competition must have a helium filled envelope/balloon, that is at least capable of slowing its decent in the case of a power loss, or a cut throttle. Basically, if you have it flying near the ceiling, and your battery dies or your motors stop working, it shouldn’t fall straight to the floor. Don’t worry if your Dirigible design doesn’t allow for a free floating blimp, just so long as it doesn’t drop like a rock with a loss of power.

Purchasing Helium: At last check, Helium is reportedly in short supply; so prices are rising as time goes on. Make sure you look for and purchase your helium tank well before the Symposium.

Dirigible Design Specifications:

olddirigibleThe Dirigible Races will be taking place in the biggest available room in the hotel/convention center. This means the race could consist of a navigation course and/or a simple race around the periphery. Because of the larger room size this year, we have made a slight increase in the allowed physical dimensions of your dirigibles. We believe this size is well within any reasonable RC airship design on this scale.

  1. Size: Dirigibles should be no longer than 80 inches from nose to tail (this is a slight increase from previous years). They should be no wider than 72 inches. They should be no taller than 72 inches from gondola to the top of the balloon(s). Please remember these dimensions aren’t a target to shoot for. An airship that’s a 6 foot cube or sphere isn’t going to fly well in a room with limited ceiling height.
  2. Type: All Dirigibles should be of helium filled/lighter than air type. No hot air dirigibles, flammable gas dirigibles (no Hydrogen) or heavier than air vehicles (helicopters or airplanes) allowed. This is to keep the field competitive speed and maneuverability wise, but also for spectator and facility safety. (Helicopters, Quad Copters and Airplanes can be used as power plants in helium lift dirigibles, just not standalone. If you use one of these heavier than air vehicles as a power plant, it should be enveloped by some kind of decoration or architecture to make it fit as a dirigible, and not just a helicopter suspended from a balloon)
  3. Propulsion: Your primary propulsion must be through electric motors and propellers (or ducted fans). Other inventive, non-volatile propulsion is allowed/encouraged. Keep it safe. If you aren’t sure, ask.
  4. Weapons: Due to the possible expensive nature of remote control dirigibles, and the amount of work that may go into designing and building one of these airships, there will be no “combat” competition at this year’s symposium. However, if you wish to design some kind of working “weapons” into your dirigible for exhibition purposes (such as for the design competition), these must be disabled or removed for the races.
  5. Safety: There will be spectators in the room, and while we do our best to keep them out of the planned flight path, we all know that things can go awry. To avoid any injuries from falling parts, please make sure that all of your Dirigible’s parts are securely attached, and make an inspection prior to each flight.
  6. Name: Your vessel must have a name. It may or may not match the name of your group, so make sure you let us know the name of your RC Dirigible, and if it is not the same as the name of your group, let us know which group your Dirigible represents in the competition.

The Race:

Eastgate Holiday Inn Foyer

The Upper and Lower Terrace of the hotel foyer have high ceilings.

There will be timed qualifying heats this year, followed by a head to head final race by the two fastest qualifiers. The qualifying course will be simple with one left hand hairpin and one right hand hairpin followed by a finish line. From the start line you’ll be given the go by the timing judge and you must fly your Dirigible in the path outlined by the judges. There will be two balloons floating in mid air to mark each turn point, followed by a third floating marker at the end of the course. You do NOT need to hit that final marker, only fly past it. (within 5 feet of it) When you get past the finish line the timing judge will stop your time.

We are only guaranteeing one qualifying run for each registered airship. If at the end of all qualifying runs it is decided there is time for another set of qualifier, all dirigibles will be permitted a second run. This means that the more ready you are, the better your chance at a second chance. So plan ahead and be ready when you are called to the line.

Victory Points:

The two that make it to the final head to head race will fight it out for first and second place points, with the third best qualifier getting third place points. The following exceptions apply:

  • If there is a frequency conflict between the two finalist’s transmitter/receivers, they will simply run timed heats again to determine the winner.
  • If one of the two best qualifiers cannot fly in the final race due to a breakdown, the third best will take that dirigible’s place in the final race, and the dirigible that had to bow out will get third place points.

Points rankings:

  • 1st Place – 100 points
  • 2nd Place – 70 points
  • 3rd Place – 30 points

Dirigible Design Competition

There will be a contest for the best design/modification of a stock RC Blimp, or an RC Blimp built from scratch for those that are more adventurous and technically capable. We want to see you make these very modern looking RC toys look as steampunk or Victorian as you can! The rules for this part of the competition are simple:

  1. Your Dirigible must meet all the same specifications as those used in the races.
  2. Your Dirigible must be capable of remote control flight, but doesn’t have to fly well.
  3. Your Dirigible does NOT have to take part in the races to be entered in the design competition; it just must be CAPABLE of Remote Controlled flight.
  4. If you design any kind of weapons into your dirigible, they must not be capable of causing injury to a person, either due to inadvertently or intentionally being in the line of fire, or by being dropped on accidentally due to a malfunction. No weapons may be used in the RACES, they may only be used as a design element, demonstrated in the design competition*.
  5. Categories: The Symposium knows that building a working, navigable, well built and good looking dirigible takes a lot of work, time and money. For this reason the design competition will be weighted heavily. There will be 80 points each awarded to the two categories of:
    • Best Engineered Design (not to be confused with fastest)
    • Best Model Building or Artistic Presentation.
  6. Judging: The design competition will be judged by an objective panel to be chosen by the Games Director and Judges. We will endeavor to choose a layman, a model builder and an actual engineer to be judges, but it depends on who we can find.

In Summary, we hope to see several groups enter an RC Dirigible into the International Steampunk Symposium Dirigible Races and/or design competition. Please abide by the rules listed above and if you have any questions please feel free to ask. And just remember to keep property damage liability and personal safety in mind when designing or modifying your RC Blimp.


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