Japanese researchers plan to send robotic bees to Mars to check out the environmental conditions of the planet, venturing into areas the land-based Rover robot is unbale to roam.
Rover won’t be out of a job though, because the bees, called Marsbees, will use the land robot to charge and provide some direction, using it as a base-station.
Not only could the bees move faster than Rover, but they can also view the planet from the air, offering new perspectives of the red planet.
“Our preliminary numerical results suggest that a bumblebee with a cicada wing can generate sufficient lift to hover in the Martian atmosphere,” aerospace engineer Chang-kwon Kang from the University of Alabama said.
“Moreover, the power required by the Marsbee will be substantially reduced by utilising compliant wing structures and an innovative energy harvesting mechanism.”
The researchers have already developed a similar concept – a hummingbird – that can fly above the earth’s surface. Now the design will be adapted with a larger wing span and faster flapping movement to deal with the different air density around Mars.
To do this, the researchers will implement springs at the base of the wings to store any wasted energy, keeping them in the air rather than dropping down back to Mars’ surface.
Although the robotic bees would work together in a team to discover more about the planet, they would also be able to operate independently, so if one failed, the rest of the fleet could carry on with their tasks, even with one man down.
The researchers have just received $125,000 from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts initiative (NIAC), which offers funding to develop ideas that could be beneficial to space exploration.
“The NIAC program gives NASA the opportunity to explore visionary ideas that could transform future NASA missions by creating radically better or entirely new concepts while engaging America’s innovators and entrepreneurs as partners in the journey,” says NASA’s Jim Reuter. “The concepts can then be evaluated for potential inclusion into our early stage technology portfolio.”