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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

Dropship quadcopter concept may offer precise, safe landings for Mars rovers

• gizmag.com
 A fully automated, proof of concept Skycrane prototype was created over the course of eight months under the ESA's StarTiger program, with the system's hardware largely derived from commercially available quadcopter components.

The primary challenge for the Dropter project development team revolved around creating a system that could successfully detect and navigate hazardous terrain without the aide of real-time human input. This is a vital feature for any potential rover delivery system, as it is impossible to create a directly controllable sky crane due to the distance between the operator and the vehicle that creates a time lag between command and execution.

Therefore the new rover delivery method had to be designed around an autonomous navigation system. Initially the dropship navigates to the pre determined deployment zone using GPS and inertia control. Once in the vicinity of the target zone, the lander switches to vision-based navigation, utilizing laser ranging and barometers to allow it to detect a safe, flat area upon which to set down its precious cargo.

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