Mars helicopter completes first test flight


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The small helicopter that will fly autonomously as part of the Mars 2020 rover mission has successfully completed its first test flights here on Earth.

“We only required a 2-inch (5-centimeter) hover to obtain all the data sets needed to confirm that our Mars helicopter flies autonomously as designed in a thin Mars-like atmosphere; there was no need to go higher. It was a heck of a first flight,” [said Teddy Tzanetos, test conductor for the Mars Helicopter at JPL.]

The Mars Helicopter’s first flight was followed up by a second in the vacuum chamber the following day. Logging a grand total of one minute of flight time at an altitude of 2 inches (5 centimeters), more than 1,500 individual pieces of carbon fiber, flight-grade aluminum, silicon, copper, foil and foam have proven that they can work together as a cohesive unit.

This helicopter drone is a technology experiment, more focused on testing helicopter flying on Mars that doing science. If it proves to work, it will open up a whole new unmanned option for exploring the Martian surface. Imagine a helicopter that takes short hops from point to point. It will be able to reach locations a rover never could, and do it faster.

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4 comments

  • BSJ

    Rotors attached to a rover could be used to clean solar cells!

    I’ve always envisioned sweepers or dusters of some sort, but if there is enough atmosphere the be propelled by rotors, they could be used to clean surfaces too.

  • Andi

    If there’s enough atmosphere to support a helicopter, then there must be enough to transmit sound. Should be trivial to include a microphone so we can hear the “sounds of Mars”

  • Orion314

    Andi:
    Your wish is granted…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yT50Q_Zbf3s

    enjoy!

  • Max

    I got out my grandson’s toy helicopter. The lithium ion battery won’t hold a charge anymore, so I went to the hobby shop. They had one that would work but was slightly too large for a different model. It was only five bucks so I installed it thinking it will stay in the air longer but what actually happened is it could only rise a couple of inches… That’s it. The air from the rotors has a downdraft that will lift it up, when it has the floor to push against.
    If the craft with 10,000 RPM blades cannot lift itself more than a few inches in a six millibars of pressure (near vacuum) then it is not gonna work. (Except for removing dust)

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