Comparative Study of Aerial Platforms for Mars Exploration

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N. Dhanji et al. (2015), JBIS, 68, pp.282-296

Refcode: 2015.68.282
Keywords: Mars exploration; Aerial exploration platforms

Aerial platforms can play a unique and valuable role in the exploration of Mars since they provide a means of bridging the gap between orbital and ground based investigations of Mars. The primary purpose of this paper is to provide a framework for comparing the performance of fixed-wing aircraft, airships, and rotary-wing aircraft in the Martian environment and through that framework, determine which of these platforms is best suited to conduct a series of scientific investigations on Mars. Three Mars mission scenarios provide the context within which the performance of the platforms is evaluated. Platform performance requirements, such as range, flight path, altitude and payload, were derived from the mission scenarios. Existing platform designs were used for the purpose of this comparative study and were modified depending on specific mission requirements. A set of weighted performance metrics, including the gross takeoff mass, power required, maneuverability, and complexity, served as a common basis for comparing the performance of the three aerial platforms. The results of this study indicate that the airship is best suited for all mission scenarios considered due to its simplicity and high degree of maneuverability. However, this outcome is affected by the particular design choices made with respect to platform speed and available power.

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