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.
The project will deliver two primary components:
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.)
See source link for more animations http://www.scisys.co.uk/casestudies/space/aerobot.aspx