NASA Will Study Venus Atmosphere By Using Drones

Posted: Jul 8 2018, 11:39pm CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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NASA will Study Venus Atmosphere by Using Drones
Credit: Northrop Grumman Corp

NASA has recently partnered with a company to build a drone that could survive in turbulent upper atmosphere of Venus

NASA intends to send a mission to Venus to learn more about its past conditions but not many probes have been able to extensively explore its atmosphere or surface before. Previous missions to Venus-like Venera and NASA's Pioneer Venus multiprobe were able to return only few hours of data. Not surprising, considering that the atmosphere of Venus is incredibly thick and hostile. Furthermore, it is also the hottest planet in our solar system with average surface temperatures of about 500 degrees Celsius. That’s hot enough to melt lead.

In order to deal with extreme conditions on Venus, NASA has recently partnered with a Boulder-based company that specializes in unmanned aerial systems. The company, named Black Swift Technologies, will build a drone that could travel through the upper atmosphere of Venus and help researchers determine if the planet once had suitable conditions for liquid water – the key ingredient to life as we know it.

But an aerial drone that could survive in Venus’ upper atmosphere is not an easy task to complete.

“They're looking for vehicles to explore just above the cloud layer. The pressure and temperatures are similar to what you'd find on Earth, so it could be a good environment for looking for evidence of life. The winds in the upper atmosphere of Venus are incredibly strong, which creates a design challenge.” Jack Elston, the co-founder of Black Swift Technologies, said in a statement.

To solve this problem, researchers aim to build a special a kind of drone. The new drone will rely more on strong winds to fly through the atmosphere instead of electricity.

"Our project centers around a unique aircraft and method for harvesting energy from Venus's upper atmosphere that doesn't require additional sources of energy for propulsion,” said Elston. “Our experience working on unmanned aircraft systems that interact with severe convective storms on Earth will hopefully provide a valuable contribution to the ongoing discussion for how best to explore this turbulent environment. Additionally, the work we do will help inform better designs of our own aircraft and should lead to longer observation times and more robust aircraft to observe everything from volcanic plumes to hurricanes."

NASA will award company $125,000 for the concept. If the concept is approved by NASA, they will sign a second-phase contract which is expected to be worth $750,000.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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