|Part of Mars 2020|
|Manufacturer||Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA)|
|Diameter||Rotors: 1.2 m (4 ft)|
|Height||0.49 m (1 ft 7 in)|
|Launch date||30 July 2020, 11:50:00 UTC|
|Launch site||Cape Canaveral, SLC-41|
|Landing date||18 February 2021, 20:55 UTC|
Octavia E. Butler Landing
JPL's Mars Helicopter insignia
Ingenuity is a small robotic helicopter located on Mars since February 18, 2021. It is the first aircraft on Mars and is intended to make the first powered and fully controlled atmospheric flight, from takeoff to landing, on any planet beyond Earth. Part of NASA's Mars 2020 mission, the small coaxial, drone rotorcraft will serve as a technology demonstrator for the potential use of flying probes on other worlds, with the potential to scout locations of interest and support the future planning of driving routes for Mars rovers.
Ingenuity, now on the Martian surface, was attached to the underside of the Perseverance rover. Its deployment was April 3, 2021, about 60 days after Perseverance's landing at the Octavia E. Butler Landing site in Jezero crater. Takeoff is planned for no sooner by the next week.
The rover is expected to drive approximately 100 m (330 ft) away from the drone to allow it a safe "buffer zone" in which it will attempt to fly. Ingenuity is expected to fly up to five times during its 30-day test campaign scheduled early in the rover's mission. Primarily technology demonstrations, each flight is planned to fly at altitudes ranging from 3–5 m (10–16 ft) above the ground. for up to 90 seconds each. Ingenuity, which can travel up to 50 m (160 ft) downrange and then back to the starting area, will use autonomous control during its short flights, which will be telerobotically planned and scripted by operators at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). It will communicate directly with the Perseverance rover after each landing. Its rotor blades were successfully unlocked on April 8, 2021, days after it detached from Perseverance.
If Ingenuity works as expected, NASA may build on its design to extend the aerial component of future Mars missions. The project is led by MiMi Aung at the JPL. Other contributors include AeroVironment, Inc., the NASA Ames Research Center, and the NASA Langley Research Center.
The vehicle was named Ingenuity by Vaneeza Ruppani, a girl in the 11th grade at Tuscaloosa County High School in Northport, Alabama, who submitted an essay into NASA's "Name the Rover" contest. Known in planning stages as the Mars Helicopter Scout, or simply the Mars Helicopter the nickname Ginny later entered use in parallel to the parent rover Perseverance being affectionately referred to as Percy.
|Rotor speed||2400 rpm|
|Blade tip speed||<0.7 Mach|
|Operational time||1 to 5 flights within 30 sols|
|Flight time||Up to 90 seconds per flight|
|Maximum range, flight||50 m (160 ft)|
|Maximum range, radio||1,000 m (3,300 ft)|
|Maximum planned altitude||5 m (16 ft)|
|Battery capacity||35–40 Wh (130–140 kJ)|
Because the atmosphere of Mars is only about 1⁄100 as dense as that of Earth at surface level, it is much harder for an aircraft to generate lift, a difficulty only partially offset by Mars' lower gravity (about a third of Earth's). Liftoff from Mars' surface has been described as equivalent to flying at 100,000 ft (30,000 m) above Earth, an altitude that has never been reached by existing helicopters.
Ingenuity is designed to be a technology demonstrator by JPL to assess whether this technology can fly safely, and provide better mapping and guidance that would give future mission controllers more information to help with travel routes planning and hazard avoidance, as well as identifying points of interest for the rover. The helicopter is designed to provide overhead images with approximately ten times the resolution of orbital images, and will provide images of features that may be occluded from the cameras of the Perseverance rover. It is expected that such scouting may enable future rovers to safely drive up to three times as far per sol.
The helicopter uses contra-rotating coaxial rotors about 1.2 m (4 ft) in diameter. Its payload is a high resolution downward-looking camera for navigation, landing, and science surveying of the terrain, and a communication system to relay data to the Perseverance rover. Although it is an aircraft, it was constructed to spacecraft specifications in order to endure the g-force and vibration during launch. It also includes radiation-resistant systems capable of operating in the frigid environment of Mars. The inconsistent Mars magnetic field precludes the use of a compass for navigation, so it uses a solar tracker camera integrated to JPL's visual inertial navigation system. Some additional inputs include gyros, visual odometry, tilt sensors, altimeter, and hazard detectors. It was designed to use solar panels to recharge its batteries, which are six Sony Li-ion cells with 35–40 Wh (130–140 kJ) of battery energy capacity (nameplate capacity of 2 Ah).
The helicopter uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor with a Linux operating system. Among other functions, this processor controls the visual navigation algorithm via a velocity estimate derived from features tracked with a black-and-white downward-facing navigation camera or horizon-facing terrain camera. The Qualcomm processor is connected to two flight-control microcontroller units (MCUs) to perform the necessary flight-control functions. It also carries an IMU and a Garmin LIDAR Lite v3 laser altimeter. Communications with the rover are through a radio link using low-power Zigbee communication protocols, implemented via 900 MHz SiFlex 02 chipsets mounted in both the rover and helicopter. The communication system is designed to relay data at 250 kbit/s over distances of up to 1,000 m (3,300 ft).
NASA's JPL and AeroVironment published the conceptual design in 2014 for a scout helicopter to accompany a rover. By mid 2016, US$15 million was being requested to keep development of the helicopter on track. By December 2017, engineering models of the vehicle had been tested in a simulated Martian atmosphere and models were undergoing testing in the Arctic, but its inclusion in the mission had not yet been approved nor funded. The United States federal budget, announced in March 2018, provided US$23 million for the helicopter for one year and it was announced on 11 May 2018 that the helicopter could be developed and tested in time to be included in the Mars 2020 mission. The helicopter underwent extensive flight-dynamics and environment testing, and was then mounted on the underside of the Perseverance rover in August 2019. Its mass is just under 1.8 kg (4.0 lb) and JPL has specified that it is planned to have a design life of five flights on Mars. NASA has invested about US$80 million to build Ingenuity and about US$5 million to operate the helicopter.
In 2019, preliminary designs of Ingenuity were tested on Earth in simulated Mars atmospheric and gravity conditions. For flight testing, a large vacuum chamber was used to simulate the very low atmospheric pressure of Mars – filled with carbon dioxide to approximately 0.60% (about 1⁄160) of standard atmospheric pressure at sea level on Earth – which is roughly equivalent to a helicopter flying at 34,000 m (112,000 ft) altitude in the atmosphere of Earth. In order to simulate the much reduced gravity field of Mars (38% of Earth's), 62% of Earth's gravity was offset by a line pulling upwards during flight tests. A "wind-wall" consisting of almost 900 computer fans was used to provide wind in the chamber.:1:08:05–1:08:40
The Ingenuity technology demonstrator could form the foundation on which more capable aircraft might be developed for aerial exploration of Mars and other planetary targets with an atmosphere. The next generation of rotorcraft could be in the range between 5 and 15 kg (11 and 33 lb) with science payloads between 0.5 and 1.5 kg (1.1 and 3.3 lb). These potential aircraft could have direct communication to an orbiter and may or may not continue to work with a landed asset. Future helicopters could be used to explore special regions with exposed water ice or brines, where Earth microbial life could potentially survive. Mars helicopters may also be considered for fast retrieval of small sample caches back to a Mars ascent vehicle for return to Earth such as the one to be launched in 2026.
After deployment, the rover is expected to drive approximately 100 m (330 ft) away from the drone to allow it a safe "buffer zone" in which it will attempt to fly in April 2021. The Ingenuity helicopter is expected to fly up to five times during its 30-day test campaign starting in April 2021, early in the rover's mission. Statements have also said that it could fly up to four times.
Each flight is planned to be at altitudes ranging from 3–5 m (10–16 ft) above the ground. In a NASA press conference on April 9, 2021, Operations Lead Tim Canham and Aung said that the first flight is planned to be a stationary hover at an altitude of 3 m (9.8 ft), lasting about 40 seconds and including taking a picture of the rover, with subsequent flights being increasingly ambitious.:0:24:49–0:25:29,1:22:21–1:22:55 Aung also explained that the flights would get more ambitious as experience is gained and the allotted time for operating the helicopter dwindles, and that the mission may end before the 30-day period is up, in the likely event that the helicopter crashes.:0:49:50–0:51:40 In up to 90 seconds per flight, it could travel as far as 50 m (160 ft) downrange and then back to the starting area.
It will use autonomous control during its short flights, although flights will be telerobotically planned and scripted by operators at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). It will communicate with the Perseverance rover directly after each landing. The second flight will occur no earlier than four days after the first, using the first day after flight to confirm the model of Ingenuity's energy usage; subsequent flights will be three days apart.:1:20:38–1:22:20
Ingenuity was deployed on April 3, 2021, after landing with the rover Perseverance in the crater Jezero at Octavia E. Butler Landing on February 18, 2021, and removal of the debris shield on March 21, 2021. The same day, the small helicopter managed to take a photo of the surface of Mars which was transmitted back to Earth.
Ingenuity performed a low-speed rotor spin test on April 8, 2021 (mission sol 48), spinning at 50 rpm. A high-speed spin test was attempted on April 9, but failed due to the expiration of a watchdog timer, a measure to protect the helicopter from incorrect operation in unforeseen conditions. On April 12, a software update to correct the problem was announced. A new date for the first flight test is expected to be announced "next week". On April 17, 2021, Ingenuity successfully passed the full-speed spin test. The test involved spinning its rotor blades up to full speed at around 2400 rpm for the first time on Mars. The helicopter has yet to take off from the surface and achieve first flight on Mars.
A small piece of the wing covering from the Wright brothers' 1903 Wright Flyer, the first powered aircraft on Earth, is attached to a cable underneath Ingenuity's solar panel. In 1969 Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong carried a similar Wright Flyer artifact to the Moon in the Lunar Module Eagle.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ingenuity helicopter.|