NASA is testing an autonomous Martian helicopter

Drones are everywhere these days. They’re under Christmas trees. They’re at the X-Games. They’re even in Congress. And if NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has its way, they could be headed to Mars next in the form of the Mars Helicopter.

Rover teams still have a tough time with the Martian surface even though they’re flush with terrestrial data. The alien surface is uneven, and ridges and valleys make navigating the terrain difficult. The newest solution proposed by JPL is the Mars Helicopter, an autonomous drone that could “triple the distances that Mars rovers can drive in a Martian day,” according to NASA. The helicopter would fly ahead of a rover when its view is blocked and send Earth-bound engineers the right data to plan the…

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