Drones truly are amazing and they have been changing the world (largely) for the better since they were invented, that’s part of the reason we take so much pride in training the next generation of commercial drone operators. Now drones have the opportunity to change more than just our world for the better, they can literally impact the future of other planets and their moons.
Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is quite an exciting place for scientists trying to understand how life develops. It has enough water to be comfortably called an ocean world. To be fair it’s frozen solid on the surface, but the interior seems to be a relatively warm, liquid ocean. It also has a diverse chemistry rich in the building blocks biology (as we know it) needs. Put the two together, and what you get is a place with a lot of organic material undergoing the same reactions that we believe went down in Earth’s early days.
All in all, it’s a place that could offer us insight into how life appeared that lab work simply can’t provide. So what NASA wants to do, as part of its New Frontiers exploration program, is to send a pair of eyes to Titan and see what’s what. That pair of eyes, engineers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory believe, should come in the shape of a dual-quadcopter they named Dragonfly.
We you consider the flexibility that drones offer, you can start to understand why they would be useful on the terrain of another planet.
“We could take a lander, put it on Titan, take these four measurements at one place, and significantly increase our understanding of Titan and similar moons,” said Dragonfly project manager Peter Bedini of APL. “However, we can multiply the value of the mission if we add aerial mobility, which would enable us to access a variety of geologic settings, maximizing the science return and lowering mission risk by going over or around obstacles.”
This is where science really get’s to leave the lab.
“This is the kind of experiment we can’t do in the laboratory because of the time scales involved,” said APL’s Elizabeth Turtle, principal investigator for the Dragonfly mission. “Mixing of rich, organic molecules and liquid water on the surface of Titan could have persisted over very long timescales. Dragonfly is designed to study the results of Titan’s experiments in prebiotic chemistry.”
The mission would capitalize on the rapid evolution and increased reliability and capability of autonomous aerial systems on Earth. Dragonfly would make numerous flights, moving from one geologic setting to another. (The craft was named by the team for the double-wing-set-equipped insect, which also hops from place to place.)
This was, truly, inevitable. As NewAtlas points out:
With drones taking over a multitude of tasks here on Earth, it was only a matter of time before we started sending them to other worlds.
To learn more about the Dragonfly mission, visit: http://dragonfly.jhuapl.edu.
If you’d like to get in on this exciting new drone revolution, then register for a drone training course today. Drone Universities can prepare you for your FAA Part 107 exam; learn from the best, learn from DU.