AeroVironment and NASA plan to design a hexacopter for using data from demonstrations of the Ingenuity robotic helicopter on Mars, SpaceNews reported Thursday.
The partnership is exploring a new six-rotor unmanned aerial vehicle concept, dubbed Mars Science Helicopter, with a maximum payload capacity of 5 kilograms.
“We’re trying to look at the science applications: what science is enabled by having the aerial dimension added,” Theodore Tzanetos, a robotics technologist and Ingenuity Mars Helicopter deputy operations lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said at a recent Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group meeting.
The team looks to develop a 30-kilogram hexacopter capable of soaring 10 kilometers and reaching areas that a rover may find difficult to access.
Ingenuity completed its eighth flight on the Martian surface Monday, traveled 160 meters in 77.4 seconds and reached a new landing site 133.5 meters from NASA’s Perseverance rover.
AeroVironment helped the agency build Ingenuity in an effort to determine whether aerial robots could operate during planetary explorations.
Ken Farley, Mars 2020 mission chief scientist, said an agreement between the mission team, NASA headquarters and the independent helicopter group allows Ingenuity to continue its operational demonstration.
He added that additional flights will be conducted in the coming months to “demonstrate how this dance can work between the helicopter and the rover” due to to the complexity of flying a helicopter and performing the rover mission.