AeroVironment Inc Contributes to Mars Helicopter Landing

If all goes according to plan, Simi Valley aircraft developer AeroVironment Inc. will have had a hand in developing the first helicopter to land—and eventually fly—on Mars.

The hovering payload will be attached to the belly of the Mars 2020 rover, scheduled to land on the Red Planet in February 2021. While the aircraft was developed as a test vessel, results will inform the future approach of aerial reconnaissance in areas that are inaccessible to land-bound rovers. The Martian atmosphere, 100 times thinner than that of Earth’s, presents aerodynamic challenges because of the massive amount of energy required to achieve lift. AeroVironment designed and developed the vehicle’s airframe and major subsystems, including rotor, rotor blades, hub, and control mechanism hardware. The Southern California company previously developed the FQM-151 Pointer, one of the first drones to be deployed in combat.