Always at the forefront of science and technology, NASA may be sending a copter drone to Mars five years from now. The drone will accompany a six-wheeled terrain vehicle that is being designed for the space administration’s next rover mission.
According to space.com, the copter drone is currently being developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. The drone weighs only 2.2 pounds and comes with helicopter blades which will measure 3.6 feet from end to end.
JPL mechanical engineer Mike Meacham said in the video, “If our rover was equipped with its very own helicopter that could see over tall objects in front of it, it would allow us to make decisions much more efficiently on which way to command the rover.”
The challenge for NASA is the ability fly in the thin, virtually non-existent atmosphere of the red planet. The drone requires some different modifications to the copter design, other than the ones which currently fly with ease back here on Earth. Because the atmosphere of Mars is just 1% as dense as Earth’s atmosphere, the body of the drone must be relatively lightweight compared to the bulkier blade system, in order to achieve lift.