ISLAMABAD: Nasa engineers are developing drones that can fly to areas which are inaccessible to rovers such as the shaded region of a crater-on Mars, asteroids and moon to gather samples.
The flying robotic vehicles similar to quad-copters but designed for the thin atmosphere of Mars and the airless voids of asteroids and the Moon would use a lander as a base to replenish batteries and propellants between flights, Space.com reported.
“This is a prospecting robot,” said Rob Mueller, senior technologist for advanced projects at Swamp Works at Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“The first step in being able to use resources on Mars or an asteroid is to find out where the resources are.
They are most likely in hard-to-access areas where there is permanent Shadow.
“Some of the crater walls are angled 30 degrees or more, and that’s far too steep for a traditional rover to navigate and climb,” he said.
The machines being built fall under the name Extreme Access Flyers, and their designers intend to create vehicles that can travel into the shaded regions of a crater and pull out small amounts of soil to see whether it holds the water-ice promised by readings from orbiting spacecraft.
On Earth, an aerial vehicle that can pull a few grams of dirt from an area potentially brimming with toxins would be very valuable for first responders or those researching a new area who do not want to risk humans.