Solar, Inflatable Drone Ready to Circle Venus for a Year

By: | March 11th, 2014

The inflatable drone makes use of solar panels to give it power. Photo © Northrop Grumman

Scientists have always been curious to know how the planet Venus changed from a potentially life-supporting world billions of years ago to the scorching hothouse it is today.

Planet Venus, the closest planet to Earth, is always shrouded with deadly clouds that block the view.  Due to this unfriendly alien topography of Venus, the researchers have come up with a robotic airship that would not require landing on the surface of Venus.

The VAMP or ‘Sky Rover’ could fly around in the skies of Venus for up to a year

Engineers at aerospace firms Northrop Grumman and L’Garde have designed an extremely light (just 992 pounds) inflatable drone called the Venus Atmospheric Maneuverable Platform (VAMP). This unmanned ‘Sky Rover’ could stay afloat for as long as a year, collecting data about Venus and its atmosphere.

The large but very light “inflatable” unmanned “sky rover” could explore Venus’ atmosphere for as long as a year before it loses its gas and the mission comes to an end.

Making use of solar power

The VAMP would get the power for its engines from solar panels and radioactive plutonium-238. At night, the VAMP would make use of its 151 foot wingspan to stay afloat.  The VAMP could circle the planet every 6 days and it could be steered back on Earth via signals relayed through the mother ship.

VAMP is still in the design phase, but it would not require the development of any new technology. It could be carried into Venus’ orbit via spacecraft, then inflated and released, spiraling down to the atmosphere smoothly, slowly and relatively safely.

The successful mission will offer a new approach to study our other neighbors in the solar system by sending such drones to Mars or even the moons of Saturn.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. You can also find Nidhi on Google+.

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