Robotic Spacecraft (Astronomy, Planetary, Earth, Solar/Heliophysics) > Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and Mars 2020 Rover Section

Retrieve the 2020 Samples with Helicopter instead of Rover?

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redliox:
Thought occurred to me when I thought of how drone copters here on Earth are being utilized for both recon and (especially if Amazon can have its way) transporting packages: what if the 2020 rover samples were retrieved by a copter instead of a rover?  Currently, the 2020 Mars rover will only have a tiny prototype flying for about a month, and plenty of scientists consider it more of a distraction than useful.  Given how rovers evolved from Sojourner to MER to Curiosity, could there be a parallel development with copter drones on Mars once the properties of Martian flight are understood?

More to the point, a drone might be smaller and able to cover ground faster than a rover and, here on Earth for certain, the devices are already being programmed to handle similar tasks to what MSR might need.  Any thoughts?

speedevil:

--- Quote from: redliox ---More to the point, a drone might be smaller and able to cover ground faster than a rover and, here on Earth for certain, the devices are already being programmed to handle similar tasks to what MSR might need.  Any thoughts?

--- End quote ---

This is not in principle unreasonable.

However, while it is 'easy' to make 1-10kg class quadrotors or helicopters with near-off-the-shelf parts, going much heavier has issues.

Landing is very, very risky, as to fly on Mars, your blades have to be going most of the speed of sound.

You get with an architecture similar to the 2020 helicopter a minute or two of flight a day, in summer, whereas with a rover, you can trundle slowly along.

A likely near-term sweet spot as I see it would be a dozen or two helicopters per rover.
Various instruments on them, so you can take particular measurements of specific spots if desired, and perhaps even a tiny arm for 10g samples.

Then the rover trundles over a programmed and approved route mapped to milimeter resolution in 3d by the helicopters at 'high' speed for Mars to get to interesting samples that it can drill or use ground penetrating RADAR or other instruments the helicopters can't handle.

This would need better comms to earth.

Blackstar:
Rovers work. Drones are unproven.

NASA will not spend billions of dollars and then rely upon something fragile and unproven.

TrevorMonty:
Nice idea but as others said risky, would need at least 2 very large drones to lift 10kg samples. The sample return rovers will simple and low cost, should be just as fast as drones as they will be travelling mapped routes.

Zed_Noir:
Conventional helicopter drones might not be a good way to get around on Mars. As stated by @speedevil up thread.

However a helistat drone might work. Especially with a helium gasbag that could be heated to provide buoyancy. Think of a miniature semi-rigid blimp with multiple rotors from helicopter drones on outriggers.

There is the historical example of the ill-fated make shift Piasecki PA-97 test vehicle.

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