AeroVironment Mars Helicopter. Photo courtesy of Aerovironment
Unmanned aircraft system (UAS) manufacturer AeroVironment will collaborate with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to build the agency's Mars Helicopter planned to fly on Mars.
NASA plans to send a helicopter to fly on NASA’s next red planet rover mission in July 2020 to demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the red planet.
AeroVironment displayed a model of the Mars Helicopter June 27 during a press briefing at NASDAQ Marketsite in New York City. Flying at nearly 100,000 feet on Earth is similar to flying on Mars' surface, according to a company press release. Therefore AeroVironment's model incorporates airfoil design principles and simulation tools.
AeroVironment delivered to NASA in May 2016 a tested prototype of the Mars Helicopter's rotor and landing gear, which were then integrated with NASA's controller. AeroVironment delivered helicopter subsystems in 2017. NASA's JPL then built two engineering development model Mars Helicopters integrating AeroVironment's rotor, landing gear, fuselage shell and solar panel substrate.
AeroVironment said it is currently building the flight versions of the subsystems to integrate into the JPL-built vehicle.
Mars 2020 is expected to reach Mars in February 2021.