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Drones for research on Mars are being tested in Iceland

The involvement of drones has a major role in future space observation. We’ve observed that people are using various kinds of drones on earth for various kinds of things like remote sensing, exploration, resource development, imaging etc. Can we expect to see the drones on Mars atmosphere?
For this mission NASA has given the prize amounting $3.1 million to a group from Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) led by Christopher Hamilton at the university of Arizona to see if they get success in making such drones.
Comparing to the cost of rover mission this mission works at minimal extra cost as drones will provide critical support to rover and thereby increase the quality of the mission. Drones could mostly help in finding the areas that are beyond the reach of rovers, what actually they’ll do is they recognize the target of interest and find the paths through difficult land. They even have the capability to collect the sample from Martian land. Team has named the mission as RAVEN (Rover–Aerial Vehicle Exploration Networks).

RAVEN has played a major role about how NASA comes closer in the field of exploration about the understanding of the other worlds. According to the Hamilton till now the research on Martian land is done by four process; flyby, orbiter, lander, and then a rover. Mariner probes are used to do the flybys for gathering the information, Viking program puts the spacecraft in the mars orbit and a lander on the mars surface, pathfinder mission helped in delivering the Soujourner rovers on the mars surface.
With RAVEN on Mars thing will work slightly different. Hamilton said that they are adding fly with the drone and the whole mission getting ready to build the two robots with new technology to work together with extra-terrestrial objects. This will increase the output of scientific research as drone and rover is going to work together.

The architecture of the RAVEN is built by taking the work done on Perseverance Rover. Perseverance rover is taking Ingenuity helicopter on its belly which is going to land on mars within a month. This tiny helicopters are making one or more air trips during its one-month mission.
Hamilton and its team went to Iceland’s Holuhraun lava flow field to test the practicality of drone and rover concept as most of the mars surface is covered with lava fields.

The interesting thing about this place is that the lava is deposited in the sandy fields which is same as how mars field looks like. There is a vast difference between flying in mars and flying in earth’s atmosphere. Testing the RAVEN in lava fields of Iceland will give you deep understanding and information about the lava fields.
Scientists have been using these Icelandic highlands for long to test the new technologies and astronauts and also the Apollo astronauts were trained here before walking on the moon.
Hamilton said that RAVEN will find the volcanic terrain locations for research as it generates habitable hydrothermal systems that would preserve the microscopic organisms.

Geological Map of Mars

The main reason for developing a drone is that rover cannot be run on lava fields as their surfaces are uneven and rough on both mars and Iceland. In many cases like this flying is better than driving to solve the problems of research in fields.
RAVEN is expected to work for three years so that it could learn more about the drone operations using navigation based 3D computer terrain models. This method when combined with the results of Ingenuity Helicopter it provides strong support to develop the future drones to work with rovers.

The architecture of the RAVEN is designed with a claw model so that it can collect the rock samples and handed over to their particular rover. Hamilton also said that once it would success in test we would start designing the next generation architecture. The architecture is tested on the basis of its lidar system which makes the navigation capabilities of the future drones to be powerful, its Hyperspectral imaging allows the drone to take the images of electromagnetic spectrum etc.
Robert Robbins president of university of Arizona have said that this mission has extended the vision landing the humans on mars which is now not so far away from the future.