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Flying drone could launch to Mars in 2020


Posted on Saturday, 17 March, 2018 | Comment icon 9 comments

On Mars, the drone could help to scout out the surrounding terrain. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA scientists are considering whether or not to send their lightweight robotic helicopter drone to Mars.
The drone, which has been in development at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for several years, has been designed to operate autonomously on Mars without requiring real-time input from an operator.

Weighing 1.8kg, the device has an internal battery capable of powering flights of up two minutes at a time - enough for it to reach an altitude of around 300 meters.

Recent testing of the drone has demonstrated that it can fly in a simulated Mars environment, leading to the very real possibility of sending it there with NASA's new rover in 2020.

On the planet itself it could fly up and capture aerial images of the surrounding terrain - something never achieved on Mars before. It could also help the main rover navigate and to avoid obstacles.

According to Jim Green, head of NASA's planetary science division, the space agency is seriously considering sending the drone however there are still quite a few hurdles to overcome.

"There are two aspects of it," he said. "One is the feasibility of a technology demonstration such as what the helicopter concept is moving forward on, and the other part of it is an adequate budget to be able to execute it."

"It's going through its reviews. So far, it's doing well, but it has a couple more gates to go through before we'd actually confirm it and fly it."

Source: Spaceflight Now | Comments (9)

Tags: Mars, Drone

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by UFOwatcher on 17 March, 2018, 20:46
Only two minutes at a time! They had better be quick. Would love to see this with a lot more time.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 11 May, 2018, 21:21
Mars Helicopter to Fly on NASA’s Next Red Planet Rover Mission  
Comment icon #3 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 11 May, 2018, 21:22
 
Comment icon #4 Posted by Sundew on 14 May, 2018, 1:33
Although the gravity is not as great as Earth, the atmosphere is much thinner. I wonder how that will affect a drone? I would assume at some point an atmosphere can be so thin that such a propeller driven device could not work at all. 
Comment icon #5 Posted by Astra. on 14 May, 2018, 3:38
Yeah, well I'm sure that NASA has taken all of this into consideration. Hence the 4 years of testing etc. As they have mentioned, if it doesn't work the Mars 2020 mission wont be impacted on. I'd like to wager that all will go to plan tho.  As they say - 'nothing ventured, nothing gained' .. 
Comment icon #6 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 14 May, 2018, 5:26
It won't affect the drone at all, as it has been thoroughly tested at atmospheric pressures simulating those it will experience on Mars.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Aardvark-DK on 14 May, 2018, 8:27
Interesting, so it will take photos of all the faces, and buildings there ? (sarcasm might be in this post..)
Comment icon #8 Posted by EBE Hybrid on 15 May, 2018, 11:40
If it works, it'd be a great way to explore craters and cold traps for surface water ice, would be something really special if water ice could be found in abundance from the point of view of running a martian habitat (which would need water and fuel) plus hopefully it may also contain organic molecules indicative of life
Comment icon #9 Posted by Sundew on 22 May, 2018, 16:56
Good to know. I would expect them not to overlook this "small" detail. 


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