© Business Wire Electronics Production | July 04, 2018
AeroVironment and Nasa build first drone to fly on Mars
Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and AeroVironment is collaborating to build the first drone, the Mars Helicopter, to fly on Mars.
“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, in a statement. The first thing that AeroVironment did was to develop subscale Mars helicopter prototypes to test and demonstrate the feasibility of lift in the thin Martian atmosphere. Then in May 2016, AeroVironment delivered to NASA/JPL a Mars Helicopter rotor and landing gear prototype that was integrated with a JPL-developed controller and demonstrated free flight in a simulated Mars atmosphere, proving that it is possible to fly on Mars. Now, AeroVironment is building the flight versions of their 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. The Mars Helicopter project is led by NASA JPL with team members across JPL, AeroVironment, NASA Ames and NASA Langley. AeroVironment’s contributions to the first Mars drone include design and development of the helicopter’s airframe and major subsystems, including its rotor, rotor blades, hub and control mechanism hardware. The company also developed and built high-efficiency, lightweight propulsion motors, power electronics, landing gear, load-bearing structures, and the thermal enclosure for NASA/JPL’s avionics, sensors, and software systems.