Europe considers a helicopter drone for future Mars missions

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right or below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

The European Space Agency is considering flying a technology demonstration helicopter drone on a future Mars mission.

Note that they don’t yet have the money to build this, and it appears that they don’t yet have a mission to fly it on. What they have done is just completed a preliminary study, which suggests the idea is feasible. They are now lobbying for more cash to move forward.



  • PeterF

    I wonder if they have considered a “lighter than air” craft? Hydrogen should be a good gas in the low oxygen martian air. A sort of hybrid? That way the craft wouldn’t be completely dependent on solar panels. It could have a tool that it drops, or a claw that could drop rocks (like a seagull) to find out whats inside without having to drill…

  • LocalFluff

    This is just monkies trying to look cool by imitating those who do the real thing. US Congress two weeks ago instructed NASA to add a Martian helicopter to the Mars 2020 rover, and increased the planetary science budget accordingly. Based on several years of successful development which is a real alternative. ESA hopes to simply skip that part and pretend to be in the same game:

    Mars’ atmosphere at low altitudes is only 0.6%-1% of that on Earth’s surface. So whatever a hydrogen balloon can lift on Earth, divide that by at least 100. This is why landing on Mars is hard, parachutes only work at very high speeds. And hydrogen gas quickly escapes through thin lightweight balloon cloth. The plan now is to wait a day, or several, to Solar charge a battery in order to spend all that energy on a short vigorous propeller hop. Such a “helihopter” can take a bird’s view image of the rover’s surroundings to guide it and also study the ground where it lands. Landing, or even steering, a lighter-than-air vehicle seems harder.

  • Orion314

    I thought a U2 type long wing glider might be an idea for Barsoom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *