Author Topic: Ingenuity, Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone  (Read 441483 times)

Offline redliox

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Ingenuity, Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone
« on: 05/13/2018 05:13 am »
Thread for specifics on the officially approved flying drone for the 2020 Mars rover.  Add details and commentary here.

Previous discussion threads for this topic:
NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover
Mars Helicopter



« Last Edit: 04/30/2020 05:04 am by zubenelgenubi »
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Offline GM

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Re: Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone
« Reply #1 on: 05/13/2018 08:26 am »
Question regarding the operation of the helicopter - would Martian dust be an issue? Helicopters are capable of kicking up dust, at least on Earth. Kicking up dust on Mars could pose a threat to the drone since it is more abrasive (much less than lunar regolith but similar), not mentioning blocking out solar arrays and camera lenses. Is this a potential problem for the drone?
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Offline Star One

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Re: Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone
« Reply #2 on: 05/13/2018 08:46 am »
Question regarding the operation of the helicopter - would Martian dust be an issue? Helicopters are capable of kicking up dust, at least on Earth. Kicking up dust on Mars could pose a threat to the drone since it is more abrasive (much less than lunar regolith but similar), not mentioning blocking out solar arrays and camera lenses. Is this a potential problem for the drone?

The propellers on top would soon see to shifting any dust off it in the Martian atmosphere. I saw this question asked elsewhere and that was the answer that came back and it seems pretty sensible an answer.

Offline speedevil

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Re: Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone
« Reply #3 on: 05/13/2018 10:26 am »
Some numbers - from , and some derived ones.

Nominal flight 2-3 minutes. (4:41 in video)
600 meter range
40 meters altitude.
One flight per sol.
1.1m diameter coaxial blades.
14*14*14cm chassis.
Electronics inside 7cm cube inside this. (22:19)
1kg mass.
220W flight power.
Electronics

Helicopter talks to interface box on rover as if it is an instrument on the rover.
They are largely reusing mobile phone class accelerometers, gyros, cameras, ... (20:13)

The design can cope with weight growth to 1400g, without the rotor changing, but flight times go down. (22:24)

Hobby class batteries will supply 220W for 3 minutes in 100g. If we assume half again the energy is needed to keep the electronics package warm at night, that's 150g. ('space' rated batteries are not better).

A motor and gearbox suitable for the props are likely to be around 100g




Online vjkane

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Re: Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone
« Reply #4 on: 05/13/2018 03:43 pm »
Based on Curiosity, the early days after landing involve flight software updates and lots of checkout.  So testing the helicopter during this period would seem to have the least impact on the rover's own mission.

One of the goals for this class of helicopters is to provide high resolution imagery in the path ahead of a rover.  I read a paper that discussed how having a high resolution map of terrain would allow for much longer drives, beyond what the rover drivers can see with the rover's own cameras.  This would significantly speed rover operations.

If the demonstration helicopter survives longer and its images are useful for this purpose, it's possible that NASA might continue using it in the mission beyond 30 days.  A key objective for the 2020 mission is to have maximally efficient operations so the samples are collected expediently.


Offline geza

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Re: Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone
« Reply #5 on: 05/13/2018 06:40 pm »
As the helicopter is able to fly 600 meters each day, nothing prevents it to follow the rover and support, instead of hinder, the science mission. However, they are worried to loose it via an off-nominal landig. Which is so easy to imagine, despite having an on-board hazard avoidance logic. Probably beause of this thread, their success criterium is very low: 5 flights.

Offline hop

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Re: Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone
« Reply #6 on: 05/13/2018 09:50 pm »
Based on Curiosity, the early days after landing involve flight software updates and lots of checkout.  So testing the helicopter during this period would seem to have the least impact on the rover's own mission.
I'm not sure that follows. Those early days tend to super busy and hectic. The helicopter will undoubtedly impose burdens and restrictions on rover operations and vice versa. The rover has to receive commands for the helicopter and return data from it, so if the rover is doing an FSW update, the helicopter is probably grounded until its checked out. Supporting imagery from the rover is almost certainly desirable. There may well be restrictions on what the rover can do when the helicopter is or after a flight before the location is firmly known: E.g. 2020 will be able to use AEGIS to autonomously select targets for SuperCam ;)

Again, I'm not arguing that it's not worthwhile, only that the operational impact could easily be non-trivial.

Offline Dalhousie

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Re: Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone
« Reply #7 on: 05/13/2018 11:49 pm »
Except that doing that requires person time and DSN time, which is going to be taken away from the primary mission of Mars 2020.

Except that the helicopter is the equivalent of an instrument, so the additional communications demands are not obviously excessive.  Further, because it acts independently of the other rover systems, it's operations have far less negative impact on the rover operations than most additional rover mounted instruments would have.

You are also ignoring the fact that having the aerial imagery will speed up rover operations, allowing longer traverses per sol.  Plus more efficient selection of target areas well in advance of when the rover actually gets there.

Quote
Plus, there's planetary protection concerns--the purpose of Mars 2020 is to pick up pristine samples to bring back for analysis, so there's no way they're going to allow a dirty helicopter anywhere near their sampling areas.

Why are you assuming that the helicopter will be any dirtier than the rover?  There is certainly no need for the helicopter to go any closer than 10 m or so to any sites anyay, it won't be landing on any outcrops anyway, they will be too rough.

Quote
Mars 2020 has a primary mission that is very important. It was ranked at the top of the planetary science decadal survey. Nobody is going to be allowed to mess with that. It just isn't going to happen.

The helicopter is happening and will be integrated into operations, so clearly it is happening.
Apologies in advance for any lack of civility - it's unintended

Online vjkane

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Re: Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone
« Reply #8 on: 05/14/2018 03:27 am »
My speculation on the helicopter being used after its 30 day demonstration is that it actually proves useful to rover operations and the helicopter survives.  A big if, but one of the goals of companion helicopters with rovers that this craft is to demonstrate or disprove.

Offline geza

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Re: Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone
« Reply #9 on: 05/14/2018 07:03 am »
As the helicopter is able to fly 600 meters each day, nothing prevents it to follow the rover and support, instead of hinder, the science mission.

Except that doing that requires person time and DSN time, which is going to be taken away from the primary mission of Mars 2020.

Plus, there's planetary protection concerns--the purpose of Mars 2020 is to pick up pristine samples to bring back for analysis, so there's no way they're going to allow a dirty helicopter anywhere near their sampling areas.

Mars 2020 has a primary mission that is very important. It was ranked at the top of the planetary science decadal survey. Nobody is going to be allowed to mess with that. It just isn't going to happen.
Helicopter costs money. I assume that person time for helicopter comes from the helicopter budget. Am I correct? Helicopter is handled as any other science equipment. It requires no extra attention from DSN, but consumes bandwith. Commanding and telemetry for the heli should be minimal. The communication burden comes from the pictures. However, beyond the few tests, pictures should be downloaded only if it is considered to be useful for the primary mission.

The communique mentioned 1 month operation time for the heli. It is unclear, what is this. It seems to be too much for the 5 test flights, but too little to help the primary mission. They don't want to overpromise, because of the worry of loosing the heli accidentally? Probably, 1 month personal time is allocated initially. If it will be great success, then who knows?

Offline AlexA

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Re: Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone
« Reply #10 on: 05/14/2018 04:01 pm »
Looks like it's grown in mass from the 1kg in the 2015 video posted by speedevil, now 1.8 kg according to SpaceNews http://spacenews.com/nasa-agrees-to-fly-helicopter-demo-on-mars-2020/

JPL video that shows controlled flight in a chamber (Published on 11 May 2018):


Going by the speedevil video, demands on the rover won't be huge:
1. Initial drop-off
2. Sending waypoints to the helicopter
3. Downloading images form the rover (and transmitting to earth via orbiters).

But I can understand scientists preferring not to have to deal with it. However, if it works it may well help them by providing reconnaissance for route-planning.

Online matthewkantar

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Re: Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone
« Reply #11 on: 05/14/2018 04:18 pm »
You guys really ought to actually talk to some of the people working on Mars 2020. There's something that you're missing: the Mars 2020 team and operations are pretty much separate from the helicopter team. They're different groups, different objectives, and very different priorities. Mars 2020 is all about the science, and it's very high priority science. They view the helicopter as a sideshow tech development that is not part of their mission. And they're right. And most Mars scientists share that view.

Some upset that the helicopter makes the rover a boring afterthought for the public?

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone
« Reply #12 on: 05/14/2018 04:29 pm »
You guys really ought to actually talk to some of the people working on Mars 2020. There's something that you're missing: the Mars 2020 team and operations are pretty much separate from the helicopter team. They're different groups, different objectives, and very different priorities. Mars 2020 is all about the science, and it's very high priority science. They view the helicopter as a sideshow tech development that is not part of their mission. And they're right. And most Mars scientists share that view.
I can understand disapproval if helicopter comes at cost of science payload but its not as far as I know. If helicopter is a failure then all they've lost is a few days if that from mission. With a few days of
successful flights it could save rover weeks in travel time.


Offline yg1968

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Re: Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone
« Reply #13 on: 05/15/2018 02:36 am »
Probably a good idea to link the tweet by Bridenstine that officially announced this:
https://twitter.com/JimBridenstine/status/995036294291083264

The link to the press release:
https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/mars-helicopter-to-fly-on-nasa-s-next-red-planet-rover-mission
« Last Edit: 05/15/2018 02:58 am by yg1968 »

Offline redliox

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Re: Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone
« Reply #14 on: 05/15/2018 03:08 am »
Some upset that the helicopter makes the rover a boring afterthought for the public?

No.

I can understand your opinion, and no doubt you are very serious how small, mostly PR, projects like the 'copter-drone are genuinely distracting and more specifically hog the bandwidth the 2020 rover needs for its job of collecting samples.

Personally, I see the drone (I'm using drone from now on since it's quicker to type) as useful and a precursor tool like MOXIE; both MOXIE's and the drone's technologies would readily be useful to human expeditions.  Because it's a perpetual competition for payloads on any planetary mission, every team will accuse the other's team of wasting space on both legitimate and mudslinging terms (fortunately since we're talking about scientists instead of politicians it's more like the former but, in a competition, the later inevitably shows up).  MOXIE was likewise protested in being shoved onto 2020 just like this drone, but without some hardware testing in their intended environment NASA would be very hesitant to employ them for eventual human missions.

As for usefulness to the mission, there's been a ton of emphasis on the point of getting not just samples but the insanely best samples.  Even if the drone and rover teams are hostile to one another, I wouldn't be surprised if the rover personnel sneak peaks at the drone's footage of promising sedimentary foothills a half-day's drive ahead.  Drone imagery would assist in selecting promising sites and hazard avoidance.  I won't expect the drone to last more than 2 months, but coupled with the phobia on finding the best samples, the rover team will scramble for every advantage that assists in collection considering sample space is limited.

The 2020 rover's collection mission probably could suffice without the drone, although you could further argue a stripped-down rover operating with cameras and a microscope would be cheaper and have more room for sample storage.  Given it's small and ready to be built I see no more harm in adding it than it was adding MOXIE.  At worst, the rover team will only have to put up with the drone for  few months whereas it will be operating for years.  At best, the public will fondly think of it as the new Sojourner, and it was Sojourner that lead the way to 2020 fittingly.
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Offline yg1968

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Re: Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone
« Reply #15 on: 05/15/2018 03:11 am »
I think that if it was up to the science teams, technology demonstrations would never get done. NASA has to do science but it also has to do technology development.
« Last Edit: 05/16/2018 12:23 am by yg1968 »

Offline redliox

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Re: Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone
« Reply #16 on: 05/15/2018 03:25 am »
I think that it was up to the science teams, technology demonstrations would never get done. NASA has to do science but it also has to do technology development.

Right, but it ends up simply being about not-enough-room-for-both.  Science should be granted first choice of course since we go to Mars (and the other planets) to learn something new about it.  Many things can be simulated on Earth fortunately, except gravity; lord knows you just have to talk to the Hubble team about the importance of calculating gravity into engineering, or lack of it in the case of a warping mirror.

I'm curious to see how much the ultra-fine dust bothers equipment like MOXIE and the drone.  So far we've seen how Opportunity and Curiosity hold up; in Curiosity's case the wheels were punctured by sharp rocks which the 2020 team is wisely reinforcing.  Dust could be simulated on Earth, but actual Martian dust could be either worse or easier to handle than expected.
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Offline hop

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Re: Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone
« Reply #17 on: 05/15/2018 03:57 am »
I think that it was up to the science teams, technology demonstrations would never get done. NASA has to do science but it also has to do technology development.
Disagree. A lot of people on science teams have spent years trying to go get instruments to a high enough TRL to put on a real mission. They know the value of tech development. Also, a lot of them are huge space nerds.

I don't know why people are so bent on seeing the rover teams objections as some contrived excuse or petty malice (edit: as suggested in matthewkantar's post). Their job is to squeeze every last bit out of a $2.5+ billion machine they've been entrusted with. If the helicopter will impact their operational efficiency, it's their job to make sure decision-makers know that, even if they personally think the helicopter is super cool.

As 2020 Science Operations Lead Sarah Milkovich put it https://twitter.com/milkysa/status/995071470693838848
Quote
Welcome aboard, Mars Helicoper! We've been waiting for a final decision on this for years!   #Mars2020

(you're a cool idea even though you make my life more complicated)
« Last Edit: 05/15/2018 04:07 am by hop »

Online matthewkantar

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Re: Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone
« Reply #18 on: 05/15/2018 06:33 am »
lord knows you just have to talk to the Hubble team about the importance of calculating gravity into engineering, or lack of it in the case of a warping mirror.

Off topic, but I don't believe the Hubble's mis-figured primary mirror had anything to do with gravity. It was every bit as mis-shaped on Earth as it is in space. The very very precise mis-shape of the mirror is what allowed it to be saved.

Matthew

Offline geza

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Re: Mars 2020 Helicopter Drone
« Reply #19 on: 05/15/2018 06:48 am »
You guys really ought to actually talk to some of the people working on Mars 2020. There's something that you're missing: the Mars 2020 team and operations are pretty much separate from the helicopter team. They're different groups, different objectives, and very different priorities. Mars 2020 is all about the science, and it's very high priority science. They view the helicopter as a sideshow tech development that is not part of their mission. And they're right. And most Mars scientists share that view.
Thanks for your frank description of the human side of the controversy. Probably, this is an issue of trust...

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