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Space Science

Microflyers on Mars 17

Birds of Fire writes: "This article on Yahoo reports on work in Australia to develop tiny aircraft for Mars exploration. "Aircraft weighing as little as a chocolate bar could one day be darting over the surface of Mars with the agility of dragonflies and the eyes of bees."
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Microflyers on Mars

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  • by cybrpnk ( 94636 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @10:26AM (#2881603)
    Aircraft as small as a chocolate bar [] will one day fly on Mars?
  • Questions? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @12:54PM (#2882566) Homepage Journal
    1. Have they got a good lead on solving the power to weight ratio problem?
    2. Getting the total energy /weight ratio high enough so the flyer has reasonable range (think hummingbirds)?
    3. Cost per unit?

    Cost is not so important, since we're willing to spend quite a bit to get these things to Mars, but even so, if the cost could be brought done enough there might be terrestrial applications for little drones loaded up with various sensors.

  • GPS Navigation? (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by Perdo ( 151843 )
    NASA has it's hand in the Department of Defence's cookie jar again. Since Mars does not have a constelation of GPS sattellites (yet), this project is exclusivly for miniature terestrial surveilance.
    • RTFA! (Score:2, Informative)

      by pythorlh ( 236755 )
      The article does not say that these things use GPS, it says that there is no GPS on Mars, so we need new techniques.
  • This is similar to another article that I read about these flyers that NASA is working on that look like insects, but a lot lighter and smaller, and not as capable. I think this one is much better. It can go farther, and won't be wisked away by a 10mph wind.

    Eventually I would think that they are going to plan a full terraform team and such, and these can be used to map everything. Hmm, now I just gotta figure out how I can get on that team.
  • Sorta old news, but here is a page with pics and such for BioMorphic MicroFlyers [] for Mars exploration.
  • by jsimon12 ( 207119 ) <tzzhc4@yahoo. c o m> on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @04:14PM (#2883734) Homepage
    Here, this is a much better link [] with information on the entire system in which the microflyers would be used and how they would communicate. Evidently the microflyers are a portion of the proposed mission, other little robots and such would join in for a land/air/etc/etc type team.
  • Mars has about 1/10th the amount of air earth does. That means you have to travel at multiples of whatever your takeoff speed is on earth to generate enough lift.

    So let's say your drone's stall speed is 20mph on earth? Try 200 mph on Mars. Suddenly your 12 inch model plane needs a several hundred foot runway, at the very least.

    Okay now, so let's talk about turning--remember you need 200 mph of speed minimum to stay in the air.

    You only get one-tenth of the air over your control surfaces, meaning one-tenth the maneuverability.

    Finally, landing must be done at 200 mph for something that only needs 20mph on earth.

    Tailhook, anyone?
    • Not necesserily. You could just flap your wings ten times as fast :)
    • Mars does have a much weaker gravitational field. I would guess that it would make it easier to stay up once you were up. I don't know anything about aerodynamics, but I'd think the gravitational constant would figure in somewhere, making the ratio Mars/Earth Speed Needed smaller.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Actually, lift is proportional to density * velocity^2. So if the density is 1/10, you only need 3.2 times the speed.

      Actually, the martian atmosphere is 1/60th as dense as Earths. Also, mars has about 1/3 the gravity of earth, so you only need 1/3 as much lift.

      Put these all together and you need to fly about 4.5x as fast.

      Since drag is also proportional to density*velocity^2, drag is 1/3. At 4.5x the speed, you need about 1.5x the power to fly on earth. Not a big difference. The good news is that you get places a lot faster.


    • Mars has about 1/10th the amount of air earth does. That means you have to travel at multiples of whatever your takeoff speed is on earth to generate enough lift.

      Couldn't you "fly" by expelling particles (like a rocket or an ion engine) rather than wing surfaces? In that case, the weaker Martian gravity would make it easier than earth.
  • For anyone who's really interested, X-Plane [] have a Mars scenario and planes that will fly on Mars (this is a sim, in case anyone hasn't got it yet), and a report [] on how it's done.

Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft ... and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor. -- Wernher von Braun