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#1 2015-01-23 21:32:48

SpaceNut
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Scouting Mars by Helicopter

Short article but worth lots of discusion still the same.

Helicopter Could be 'Scout' for Mars Rovers

helicopter-for-mars-merb-rovers-lg.jpg

A proposed helicopter could triple the distances that Mars rovers can drive in a Martian day and help pinpoint interesting targets for study. Watch a video on the technology here.

Getting around on Mars is tricky business. Each NASA rover has delivered a wealth of information about the history and composition of the Red Planet, but a rover's vision is limited by the view of onboard cameras, and images from spacecraft orbiting Mars are the only other clues to where to drive it. To have a better sense of where to go and what's worth studying on Mars, it could be useful to have a low-flying scout.

Enter the Mars Helicopter, a proposed add-on to Mars rovers of the future that could potentially triple the distance these vehicles currently drive in a Martian day, and deliver a new level of visual information for choosing which sites to explore.

The helicopter would fly ahead of the rover almost every day, checking out various possible points of interest and helping engineers back on Earth plan the best driving route.

Scientists could also use the helicopter images to look for features for the rover to study in further detail. Another part of the helicopter's job would be to check out the best places for the rover to collect key samples and rocks for a cache, which a next-generation rover could pick up later.

The vehicle is envisioned to weigh 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) and measure 3.6 feet (1.1 meters) across from the tip of one blade to the other. The prototype body looks like a medium-size cubic tissue box.

The current design is a proof-of-concept technology demonstration that has been tested at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

The comment by stugray914 was to "Make the blades inflatable UV curing carbon fiber. You could fit very large blades in a small package."

This reminds me of the airplane wing design that was greatly discussed here...

While this is no Mars GasHopper (also a topic discussed here) using insitu to hop from place to place. I am thinking that one could plug the helicopter into a rover to recharge from a RTG generator before taking the needed recon for the rover to picks its path for the next big drive.


http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=4457

Last edited by SpaceNut (2015-01-23 22:29:40)

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#2 2015-01-26 11:37:42

Void
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

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#3 2015-01-26 19:42:53

SpaceNut
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

This mission would be a good example of tele-robotic control if we were already there on the surface and would want to explore a greater range than a rover could unless the men are riding in a presurized unit for sure.

This would be a great way to make a sample return mission even quicker as the lander would only need to supply the place to put the samples for a return with no slow rover to gather them.

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#4 2015-01-27 06:28:36

Void
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

I wonder if somehow a variation would be able to scout a lava tube section?

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#5 2015-01-27 12:11:27

SpaceNut
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

Sure if it does not need radio contact to control take off or any exploration functions, a preplanned flight path to enter and exit with all the control for lighting as well as camera work all laid out in advance of entry. Since the unit is not solar powered the batteries are the only limitations for controlling the use of it.

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#6 2015-01-27 14:06:46

Void
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

Perhaps it would be too heavy, but I wonder about a model air plane internal combustion engine or some chemical drive.

After all, I think I have read about very small drones on Earth.

Perhaps after they get the mentioned electric version perfected.

Last edited by Void (2015-01-27 14:07:50)

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#7 2015-01-27 16:21:49

SpaceNut
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

The threads for the airplane scout mission which you talk of is here....

Airplanes on Mars

top4.gif

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#8 2015-01-28 09:06:23

Void
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

Well I am thinking this for a power source now:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnesium-air_fuel_cell

Of course the fuel cell will need to breath CO2 instead of Air.

For exploring Lava Tubes, you would not want to have a lot of vertical maneuvering since you would crash into the tube.  You also might want to figure out what your optimal horizontal speed was.  You would not want to lollygag, but you would want to record what was in the tube, and also move slow enough again so that you did not crash into hard objects.

So in and out as fast as is prudent.  Getting photos of some kind, or ideally videos of the insides.

So maybe a hybrid between a electric plane for horizontal movement, and a helicopter for levitation on the vertical.

Obviously the machine will have to know how to not bump it's head on the walls of the tube, or fallen rock.

In the case of a first look at a lava tube, I would be tempted to hope that the carrier for it could come into the atmosphere and release it above a lava tube entrance, and that it could bring itself down to near the surface.  I don't know if there would be an advantage for it to have a landing capability.  I suppose it could be considered both ways.

I would suppose that first it would enter just a bit into the skylight and survey the situation and relay some information about what it saw, and then it could drop it's main computer and communication link down on the floor of the skylight, to reduce weight or, I think more likely it should have the power to travel into the tube recording information and come back out and talk to communication relays in orbit or the surface or both.

So you have the original article, where they plan to multi-use solar-electric Mars Helicopters.

Then you could experiment on adapting that to have a Magnesium fuel cell, here on Earth, and practice sending one to go survey a actual lava tube.  Figure out what it takes to get an autonomous helicopter drone to do that, while so powered. 

Then I guess it would be important to adapt what you learned on Earth to the facts on Mars. 
1) !1/3 gravity.
2) ~1% atmosphere density
3) Using a CO2 dominated atmosphere mix as  Oxidizer instead of Earth atmosphere.

Last edited by Void (2015-01-28 11:19:13)

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#9 2015-01-29 20:17:12

SpaceNut
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

JPL seeking $30 million from NASA for Mars drone expected to survive at least one month in a harsh environment.

“It’s too cheap not to put it on (a rover), or so we hope,” Golombek said, adding that the Mars 2020 rover is budgeted at $1.5 billion and the Curiosity rover mission is working with $2.5 billion in funding.

The 2.2-pound prototype looks like a medium-size, cube tissue box. With a 3.6-foot blade span, the Mars Helicopter would provide a much-appreciated aerial view to complement the limited field of vision currently available from cameras aboard rovers.

Although orbiters provide supplemental data for scientists and engineers who plan a rover’s path, the highest resolution is about 25 centimeters per pixel. Scientists could identify objects that are about 3 feet across. But to distinguish key outcrops and to help plan a pathway, NASA needs something that could provide photos with 10 times that resolution, Golombek said.

Enter the drone, which would be able to take photos at a resolution of 3 centimeters per pixel.

The proposed add-on is expected to fly and take pictures for about three minutes a day. It could travel about 1,970 feet in one flight and would typically hover about 130 feet above the surface of Mars.

One of the biggest challenges for the Mars Helicopter is the ability to land safely. Every day, scientists will have 7 seconds of terror, said Bob Balaram, chief engineer of Mobility and Robotics Systems at JPL.

“Because this thing is going to take off every day and land every day, we want to make sure we have a bulletproof landing system,”

This would be one of those times that I would have hoped  for a multiple unit build to cover more of mars.

This is cheap money as its almost off the shelf....

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#10 2015-01-30 06:44:54

Void
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

Well, I guess I am glad they are going to try something new and for me unexpected.  I hope it works out according to their plans.

The atmospheric pressure being so low is against it, but the CO2 being about twice as dense as air, if for it, and also the lower gravity of Mars is for it.

The only other propeller drive concepts I am aware of for Mars were: Rotons, and the http://marsairplane.larc.nasa.gov/ which I believe you have mentioned elsewhere.

So I think it is a good testbed for them to discover propeller driven methods, as well as hopefully preforming the task they have in mind.

There would not be much to talk about if I did not deviate a bit from the original topic.

Last edited by Void (2015-01-30 06:46:09)

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#11 2015-01-30 23:25:26

SpaceNut
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

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#12 2015-01-31 00:10:37

SpaceNut
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

This is the Drone Helicopter NASA Scientists Want to Send to Mars

If it's ready in time, the autonomous Mars Helicopter could fly to the Red Planet along with the new rover set for 2020. The team has a timetable of three years to finish the craft; they hope to propose it as part of the Mars 2020 rover, Aung said.

It's far from a given: The craft is just out of proof-of-concept stage and into prototyping now. But NASA's been at work on similar concepts for more than 15 years, so the demand is there. Such ideas have been floating around NASA for the last 16 years, but the Mars Helicopter is ready to bring them to fruition.

The big idea behind the Mars Helicopter is that a rover mission would carry the small helo to Mars, where it could fly out ahead of the rover, scouting out areas for near-future exploration. Once it runs out of juice, the autonomous helo would make a slow descent back to the soil, absorbing solar energy via a top-mounted solar panel as it recharges over the next days activities.

"The immediate proposal we are putting forward is to use it as an imaging vehicle," Aung says. "Once the rover drops us off and drives away, this is a self-charging system."



The team even has a few ideas for the far-off future of the vehicle. "We're definitely not looking at this as a one-trick pony," Aung says. "It's all about adding the aerial dimension [to rovers]." Imagine a fleet of connected drone helos surveying an area in great numbers.

With that in mind, the scientists can see it scaling up on Mars for bigger missions. They could even carry a really precious payload someday: humans. While the current models are autonomous vehicles, they could be the proof-of-concept needed to launch a human-piloted helicopter on Mars.

Aung also says the technology can be adapted to other worlds, including Titan and Venus, which have atmospheres that are much thicker than Mars' and offer a host of different challenges.

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#13 2015-01-31 15:26:42

Void
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

Alright, since you mentioned human transport, I guess I would consider the following:
A ground effect hover craft composed of helicopter blades 1 or 2.
and a skirt around the circumference.

The blade(s) being the top, the skirt being the sides, and the ground being the bottom of a pressurized containment.

If you used roton powered blades, then the engines on the blades could be canted to exhaust into the pressurized chamber.

I believe that a hovercraft does not need as smooth a road, and can in fact have a pretty fast horizontal speed.

But I would not restrict it to ground travel, if possible, it might have a higher speed where it could actually fly, say to get over a large obstacle.  But that mode would not be as energy efficient I presume.

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#14 2015-01-31 16:14:02

GW Johnson
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

Aerodynamical lift means are hard to come by with "air" density 0.6% that of Earth.  My be better off with simple jet thrust from rockets.

GW


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

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#15 2015-01-31 21:21:41

Void
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

I like your help.  I believe you are about as unquestionable a resource as I can consult in such matters.

As it lies now, I believe you are right.  But I leave a bit of wiggle room, for future unexpected technologies, but at this time I join your opinion.

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#16 2015-02-01 11:53:26

SpaceNut
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

Helicopter performance depends on the length of the rotor blades. For heavy lifting, a large rotor works best, but short blades reduce drag and ultimately allow for higher maximum speeds.

Thinking imperically about the lift of the helicopter.
The equation for Earth is 1=1x1x1 where the lift needed for earth gravity is related to the mass including fuel, payload to rotor rpm speed for a given length blade.

Keeping the balance of equation for earth weight (mass with gravity (9.780327 m/s²)) for a thinner atmospher would mean that a .6 would need a 1 2/3 lift factor but when on mars we would have less weight ( mass due to gravity (3.711 m/s²)) so for the same helicopter the new lift value is only .6 seems Mars gravity has already compensated.

Edit:
Realized after posting that I had forgotten liquid oxidizer for Mars which puts the mass equation far off.... and that it would only work for electrical powered systems....

What mars needs to compensate for atmosphere is a varable length blade to help keep RPM low...

Length-Morphing Rotor Ready to Provide Helicopter Versatility


The design hasn't been used in flight, but in hover-stand tests with small rotors, Gandhi and his team have shown a 25 percent length increase. His goal is a rotor blade that expands by 40 percent, from, say, 22 ft. to 30 ft. If the rotor can transition from the lab to the skies.

morphing-rotor-1107-de.jpg

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#17 2015-02-02 12:07:51

GW Johnson
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

Watch that density factor. 0.6% is .006.  All airfoil lift,  long or short,  is proportional to density x velocity squared. 

GW


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

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#18 2015-02-02 18:19:34

SpaceNut
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

You are right 1 Bar on Earth versus mars high of 10mBar (0.01Bar) on mars with lift being related to the cfm that the prop can move and with a windmill the more blade surface and blades usually increases the cfm but that needs to be weighed against the drag as you noted... I do believe it is possible and would make a great method for short recon missions for the rover.

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#19 2015-02-03 04:07:41

Rxke
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

sincerely hope they will put it in a spherical cage, that way no way to fsck up the blades when it tilts or lands awry.

like this: http://www.gizmag.com/gimball-flying-robot/29609/

that could negotiate canyons, chaotic terrain etc.


ExoMars' launcher's 2nd stage is probably en route to Mars. Unsterilised... yikes

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#20 2015-12-10 22:50:33

SpaceNut
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

I was reminded of the helicopter in a cage....

space-ball-rc-helicopter.jpg

Have not heard anything about doing it for real thou

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#21 2015-12-14 19:06:44

SpaceNut
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#22 2016-12-28 20:38:52

SpaceNut
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

To no surprise a quick 1 word search on Airplane turned up these following topics and even helicopter....
The rotor does have the angle of attack, surface area but rather than forward lift being created its upward lift created by tip speed, or RPM. The more blades the higher the lift value.

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#23 2016-12-30 10:29:16

elderflower
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

I examined a possible helicopter but could only get about 4 kN total lift (more at the bottom of Hellas) using a 12 meter diameter rotor. Dr Johnson offered no hope on supersonic blades so that was that. It would have been nice to equip crews with such a useful tool.
I therefore agree that the practical option would be a rocket powered hopper.

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#24 2016-12-30 15:31:41

kbd512
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

Elderflower,

A practical Mars scout drone can still use lift fans, much like quad rotor drones used here on Earth that substitute ducted fans for rotors.  Rotors are preferred here on Earth because they are more efficient than lift fans.  However, Mars imposes Mach limitations on rotor and propeller tips.  If the drone is light enough, this will still work.  The rotational velocity of the lift fans will be faster, but it still works.  The astronauts can obtain high resolution imagery of the terrain around them to help them decide where they want to go and how to get there.

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#25 2016-12-30 17:23:34

SpaceNut
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Re: Scouting Mars by Helicopter

Copying OT from funding priority post SLS as it does not help us leave Earth only the scouting of mars...

kbd512 wrote:

I would like to see electric lift fans investigated to determine what role that technology could play in increasing delivered tonnage for a comparatively modest development investment and risk, in comparison to a supersonic retro-propulsion development program.  I think we've already outlined what technology development is required in the Red Dragon Mars Lander / Habitat thread.  Current primary battery and electric motor technology appears sufficient to deliver the performance required, as long as lift fans / compressors can be made to reliably operate in supersonic flows.

Presuming there are no insurmountable obstacles in development, the combination of lift fans and inflatables or deployables maximizes what little utility the Martian atmosphere provides for EDL.  The affordability of the alternatives, namely orbital assembly or super heavy lift rockets, seems to be a question that has already been answered- and neither are particularly affordable.  Aerospace hardware is typically priced by the pound, and the cost curve is not linear.  Therefore, the heavier the solution, the more it costs.  If someone presents an alternative that is lighter than electric lift fans, you have my undivided attention.  GW and I hashed out what the issues were with parachutes and balloon parachutes, and the more I looked into it the more intractable the problem appeared (to me, anyway).

In another four years, I would like all technology development halted so flight hardware can be assembled and flown to Mars and back (just a fly-by, no landing attempt), simply to prove to everyone that we can do it.  Whatever we have at that point should be what we're using.  If something fantastic comes along a bit later, then it can be incorporated whenever it's actually ready.  In the mean time, I want to focus like a NIF laser on what is minimally required to get the job done, with no diversions for any other purpose.  I'm only interested in running the ball down the field.  How fast can we get to the end zone?  I don't care if we have to fight for every inch.  Progress is progress.

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