China is one of the top space agencies hoping to retrieve samples from the Martian terrain. While NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are already making plans to return samples from the Mars Perseverance rover, researchers have proposed a foldable futuristic new quadcopter that could help China recover sample materials from the red planet.
The proposed study suggests that the foldable Mars quadcopter will boost the flexibility and efficiency of returning samples from Mars. Scientists from the Harbin Institute of Technology and China Academy of Space Technology proposed this new concept. Researchers reveal that the rotorcraft will be designed as a deployable Mars quadcopter for air patrol and retrieving samples.
The quadcopter will help to prolong the exploration capabilities of the rover mission and also showcase aerial support for extensive survey and sampling.
“The Mars rotorcraft is an aerial exploration platform capable of repeated take-offs and landings to extend the range of rover explorations,” stated the authors.
The research reveals that the development of this quadcopter was first suggested during the era of NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter mission. Ingenuity successfully demonstrated a history-breaking controlled flight above the Mars surface.
NASA supported the idea of this new quadcopter with this statement.
“A Sample Retrieval Lander would land near or in Jezero Crater, bringing a small rocket on which the samples collected by Perseverance would be loaded. Two Ingenuity-like helicopters would provide a secondary capability to retrieve samples on the surface of Mars.”
Features of the New Quadcopter
China’s quadcopter has several futuristic features including an avionics architecture, a deployable structure, guidance, navigation, and control (GNC) system for autonomous flight control.
The engineers will make the hardware and software design to focus on enabling autonomous spaceflight, a unique deployment mechanism, operational procedures, and various flight modes focusing on successful operations on Martian terrains.
The new study suggests that a five-module avionics system that is part of the Mars quadcopter will enable the device to survive and operate efficiently on Mars. The quadcopter will have extra features like a navigation approach that combines inertial systems with binocular vision.
This particular feature will significantly offer independent flight capabilities on the red planet. The guidance system will operate via mode commands to create room for the autonomous execution of tasks. Unlike other land rovers currently in operation, the Mars quadcopter will boost Mars exploration through air patrol, sampling, and surveillance.
Its services will enable the device to operate more extensively, covering wider distances and collecting more data. Hence, the wide range of data that will be obtained through this means will expand our understanding of Mars.
The team behind the study published their findings on November 25 in the journal Acta Astronautica.