Quadcopters and drones are proving to be one of the most popular bits of technology of the last decade, and a team at the ESA are discovering that they’re not only great fun here on Earth, but could also provide us with benefits on Mars. The ESA recently tested a new Mars quadcopter style dropship. The fully automated concept known as Skycrane was created in just eight months under the ESA StarTiger program.
The Skycrane hardware development was mostly derived from commercially available quad-copter components, something that will no doubt have sped up its development whilst keeping costs lower than building propitiatory hardware. The automated nature means that the “dropter” could detect and navigate hazardous terrain, search for a safe and flat landing zone and deploy its payload safely. This is achieved by using a range of vision based navigation systems via on board cameras and software, laser ranging equipment and barometers.
The prototype was tested at Airbus’s Trauen site in Germany where it successfully navigated the mock Martian Surface and deployed its dummy rover to the chosen target zone using its bridle.
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