Nasa plans next Mars mission: 'Robot bees'

A swarm of robot beesdesigned to explore the surface of Mars is being developed by Nasa.

The space agency has given funding to Marsbees, a project that is working on an efficient way to get around the Red Planet by air.

Chang-kwon Kang, one of the researchers behind the initiative, said these "robotic flapping wing flyers of a bumblebee size” could "significantly enhance the Mars exploration mission”
The tiny robots would be fitted with sensors and wireless communication devices, and would use a Mars rover like Nasa’s Curiosity as a charging point.

While earthbound rovers can provide scientists with lots of useful information, their progress tends to be slow. The Marsbee robots on the other hand could travel quickly across the planet’s surface, beaming information back to the rover, which would also act as the main communication centre.

Preliminary results from Kang and his team at the University of Alabama suggest their robots’ insectlike design would allow them to hover in the Martian atmosphere, even though it is far thinner than the one found on Earth.

A team in Japan will develop and test the "micro flapping robots”, while Kang and his colleagues back in the US will model, analyse and optimise them.

The Japanese roboticists have already produced the hummingbird micro air vehicle, one of the few "robotic flappers” capable of flying on Earth. The project was funded as part of the Nasa Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) scheme, which provides early-stage ideas with grants of around $125,000

Source - Times of India

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