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Newly Designed Sailplane Will Fly Over Mars

Credit: University of Arizona

Researchers in the United States have created a small sailplane that can fly over Mars and collect data. To be able to fly for days on end, the non-motorized aircraft is designed to take advantage of the Martian environment’s wind patterns.

Aerospace engineering doctoral student Adrien Bouskela (left) and professor Sergey Shkarayev hold an experimental sailplane. The team hopes to one day send a version of a similar plane to Mars. (Image Credit: Emily Dieckman/College of Engineering)
Credit: University of Arizona

Flight, temperature, as well as gas sensors, and also cameras, are all included in the aircraft’s technology. Its primary purpose is to gather information on the atmosphere and physical features of Mars.

University of Arizona engineers built a functional sailplane model. Alexandre Kling, a NASA research scientist, is working with the crew on the project.

Tricky area on Mars

According to Kling’s comment, NASA can use the sailplane to examine an important region above the Martian surface. To be more specific, Kling is employed by the NASA Mars Climate Modeling Center. In order to better understand Mars’ weather and environment, the institute produces simulations.

The zone is where dust is scooped up and thrown into the sky,” Kling added. Also, gas constituents are combined here. Until now, Kling stated, there is very little information on this zone accessible.

Eight spacecraft are now in orbit above Mars, and three rover vehicles are actively scouring the surface, according to the group. Only a small portion of the Martian surface can be studied by these research vehicles.

The Ingenuity is a miniature helicopter that NASA has tested on Mars. Ingenuity’s experiments have been successful so far. In addition, a plane like this may carry out tasks for which a sailplane is most suited. It can only fly for a couple of minutes at a time and reach a maximum altitude of 12 meters, however.

The researchers claim that their sailplane is light, inexpensive, and propelled entirely by the wind. The present design has a three-and-a-half-meter wing span. They believe the aircraft is primarily intended to take advantage of the Martian atmosphere’s vertical winds.


In a new article published in the journal Aerospace, the researchers discuss their work on the sailplane.