Drone technology will venture beyond the Earth’s atmosphere to conquer a new planet after a partnership between NASA and a technology company.
UAV engineering firm AeroVironment has announced it has partnered with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to build the drone helicopter recently selected by NASA/JPL’s Mars Exploration Program, and displayed a model of the Mars Helicopter, which is planned to fly on Mars in less than three years.
“AeroVironment’s deep, rich and diverse history of innovation combined with our experience with near-space aircraft like Pathfinder and Helios make us uniquely suited to collaborate with NASA and JPL on this historic, interplanetary venture,” said AeroVironment president and chief executive officer, Wahid Nawabi.
AeroVironment used airfoil design principles and simulation tools that it learned from record high-altitude flights and incorporated them into the Mars helicopter design.
“The Mars Helicopter effort also benefits from the ultra-lightweight and ultra-high-precision methods integral to our nano projects that have been developed in our MacCready Works laboratory, where we’ve assembled a dedicated team of the industry’s brightest and most experienced thinkers to solve some of today’s greatest technological challenges,” Nawabi added.
AeroVironment is currently building the flight versions of its subsystems which will be integrated with other subsystems into the vehicle that JPL is building. The plan is for JPL to then install the finished Mars Helicopter into the Mars 2020 rover for its ride to a Martian landing site, still to be determined.