NASA sending remote-controlled mini-helicopter to Mars

Shown in this illustration is NASA's Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous rotorcraft, that is envisioned to travel with the agency’s Mars 2020 rover mission, to demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet. (NASA/JPL-CALTECH handout via AFP)
Updated 12 May 2018
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NASA sending remote-controlled mini-helicopter to Mars

  • Weighing less than 1.8 kg, "The Mars Helicopter" will be attached to the belly pan of the Mars 2020 rover
  • The helicopter is equipped with “solar cells to charge its lithium-ion batteries, and a heating mechanism to keep it warm through the cold Martian nights.”
TAMPA, US: The US space agency said Friday it plans to launch the first-ever helicopter to Mars in 2020, a miniature, unmanned drone-like chopper that could boost our understanding of the Red Planet.
Known simply as “The Mars Helicopter,” the device weighs less than four pounds (1.8 kilograms), and its main body section, or fuselage, is about the size of a softball.
It will be attached to the belly pan of the Mars 2020 rover, a wheeled robot that aims to determine the habitability of the Martian environment, search for signs of ancient life, and assess natural resources and hazards for future human explorers.
Mars 2020 is planned for launch in July 2020 with an arrival on the surface of Mars expected in February 2021.
“NASA has a proud history of firsts,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement.
“The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling.”
No nation has ever flown an helicopter on Mars before.
The undertaking began in August 2013 as a technology development project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
In order to fly in Mars’ thin atmosphere, the space helicopter has to be super light, yet as powerful as possible.
“The altitude record for a helicopter flying here on Earth is about 40,000 feet (12,100 meters),” said Mimi Aung, Mars Helicopter project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“The atmosphere of Mars is only one percent that of Earth, so when our helicopter is on the Martian surface, it’s already at the Earth equivalent of 100,000 feet up (30,500 meters),” she added.
Engineers built the copter’s twin, counter-rotating blades to “bite into the thin Martian atmosphere at almost 3,000 rpm — about 10 times the rate of a helicopter on Earth,” said a NASA statement.
The helicopter is equipped with “solar cells to charge its lithium-ion batteries, and a heating mechanism to keep it warm through the cold Martian nights.”
Controllers on Earth will command the Mars Helicopter, which was designed to receive and interpret commands from the ground.
Plans are being laid for a 30-day flight test, with five flights going incrementally further each time, up to a few hundred yards (meters).
Its first flight calls for a brief vertical climb of 10 feet (three meters), followed by hovering for a half minute.
NASA views the copter as a “high-risk, high-reward technology demonstration,” it said.
If successful, it could be a model for scouting on future Mars missions, able to access places the human-built rovers cannot reach.
If it fails, it will not impact the Mars 2020 mission.
“The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers,” said NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the science mission directorate.
“We already have great views of Mars from the surface as well as from orbit. With the added dimension of a bird’s-eye view from a ‘marscopter,’ we can only imagine what future missions will achieve.”


King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology unveils self-guided Black Shark boat at 38th GITEX Technology Week

The development of the Black Shark smart boat is part of a KACST initiative to localize and transform transport technology and logistics, to help achieve the aims of Vision 2030. (SPA)
Updated 20 October 2018
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King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology unveils self-guided Black Shark boat at 38th GITEX Technology Week

  • These trucks are equipped with electronic pairing technologies, which effectively improve the shipping and distributing of goods, reduce human error

JEDDAH: King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) has unveiled its Black Shark self-guided boat at the 38th GITEX Technology Week in Dubai. The vessel, which can carry out coastal surveillance and many other tasks, was developed in collaboration with Taqnia for Robotics and Smart Systems.
The development of the craft is part of a KACST initiative to localize and transform transport technology and logistics, to help achieve the aims of Vision of 2030.
The boat includes sensor systems that allow it to monitor and create a 3D map of a 200-meter area surrounding the boat, and automated control technology that gives it the ability to navigate independently and avoid collisions without human input. It can also be equipped with a flexible range of weapons, acting as a firearms platform that uses gyroscopic self-balancing technology. It has the ability to survey beaches at a range of 15 kilometers, in addition to accurately identifying its precise location with a margin of error of less than 20 centimeters using differential GPS, as well as specifying, monitoring and tracking targets.
The Black Shark also has long-range radar that covers up to 150 kilometers, and a telecommunication system to track its location, monitor its status and connect to multiple domains through command centers that allow wireless communication and remote control. It is fitted with a digital camera powered by electro-optic and infrared technology that can produce HD-quality video, and also has night vision capability.
As part of its initiative to develop transport technology and logistics, KACST has also worked on automated control technology, included self-driving heavy-duty trucks, with the University of California, Berkeley. These trucks are equipped with electronic pairing technologies, which effectively improve the shipping and distributing of goods, reduce human error, preserve resources, and reduce harmful emissions and fuel consumption.
The same technology can also, for example, transform a four-wheel-drive vehicle into a remote-controlled vehicle equipped with video cameras, infrared technology, a microphone and a control device wirelessly connected to a command center, where an operator can guide it using images from the video cameras.