By showing with Ingenuity that “flying technology” could adapt to Martian conditions and function normally, NASA paved the way for helicopter drones on Mars. China recently unveiled its own, a prototype intended for Martian missions.
While on Mars thecontinues its operations, several Chinese projects are under development on Earth. We knew that China had launched the challenge of bringing back samples of the Red Planet by 2030 with the obvious objective of achieving this before the Americans and Europeans who are also planning a joint mission to at the same time. We also learn that it could well send a helicopter drone in the Martian sky within a few years.
A prototype drone was recently unveiled, and project leader Bian Chunjiang, a researcher at the National Center for Space Sciences (CNSS) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences said that the device ” was intended to work in pairs, with amother ”In a mission diagram and architecture similar to what the with the Perseverance rover and the . The Chinese Martian helicopter will therefore be used as a scout in order to strengthen the navigation and exploration capacities of the mother rover. As , it will identify the targets of interest.
A helicopter drone inspired by the exploits of Ingenuity
Unsurprisingly, the CNSS was very discreet about the final characteristics of the flight model, including, among other things, the mass and the flight performance in terms of clearance distance, speed, altitude for example. However, the design of the prototype being a good representation of the final model, it is possible to get a rough idea of its capabilities in flight.
However, we have learned that this helicopter will carry a small payload which will include at least one multispectral detection and imaging system adapted to the vehicle’s carrying capacities. As Bian Chunjiang puts it, the idea is “ obtain an image, or even a mosaic of images, of an area or a site several hundred meters in size “. A quick scan of the image will help ” identify the geological devices of interest in order to direct the rover with precision and therefore optimize the mission ».
This helicopter drone will likely be powered bysolar but the CNSS would consider using a wireless charging method, that is to say by induction. The machine would land on a loader but it is difficult to imagine where it will be located. For obvious safety reasons, it is unlikely that it will be installed on the mother rover, or nearby, in order to avoid a crash on the rover for example.
Currently, no Martian mission is planned with a helicopter drone. The project team is still working on lifting sometechnological, especially those related to flights. Once these obstacles are cleared, it will be time to plan a mission scenario that could become a reality, at best, from the start. 2024 shooting range.