A team of University of Arizona engineers is designing a sailplane that can explore Mars for days at a time, and weighs only 11 pounds. AME professors Sergey Shkarayev and Jekan Thanga are working with a team of students to develop the wind-powered sailplanes that use several different flight methods. KOLD recently featured the project, discussing its potential to explore untouched regions of the Red Planet.
“The ultimate goal is to have a vehicle that can fly above the surface of Mars gathering data, doing science for an extended period of time,” said AME student Reed Spurling. “But fuel can run out, batteries can always run down. And if it’s nighttime for example, you might not always, for example, be able to recharge the solar panels on a vehicle."
To bypass this, the plane will rely on wind patterns for lift, inspired by the gliding style of albatross.
“So, they are gaining velocity as they are diving. After they turn around again and go back into the wind, they are gaining energy,” Spurling said.
The team details its proposal in a paper published in the journal Aerospace.