Science and Technology - For Public

Planetary Aerobot

Artist's impression of a planetary aerobot
flying over the Martian surface © SciSys

Planetary Aerobots will transform the way we explore planets. Combining the close-surface proximity of a rover with the large-area visibility of an orbiter, a planetary aerobot would drift on the currents of an alien atmosphere - it would have the capability of producing extremely high resolution images but would not be limited to an area of a few tens of metres.

SciSys won the role of prime contractor for an 18-month European Space Agency (ESA) study into the viability of planetary aerobots.

Technical Details

The project will deliver two primary components:

Digital Elevation Model © SciSys
  • An Imagery-based Localisation Package (ILP) which will implement the on-board Digital Elevation Model (DEM) generation, image prioritisation, vision-based localisation, data storage and uplink management
  • A test framework to validate and evaluate the ILP. This includes a dedicated software simulator and a real prototype balloon fitted with a comprehensive payload which is flown over a simulated Martian surface.

See an Animation of the aerobot in action. (WARNING: this requires a 38MB download.)

Model balloon flying over simulated Martian landscape
© University of Wales, Aberystwyth

See source link for more animations