Over the years NASA launched a number of probes to dive in the mysteries of outer-planets and space objects.
Philae is landed on a comet, Curiosity Rover is roaming on the Martian rocky surface, while New Horizons lingers for a while in the atmosphere of an object, gathering data and flies away to the next point of interest.
What Philae and Curiosity have in common is solid surface to land on and roam. What of gas giants in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn? Surely, Earth-bound observations and flyby retrieved data are valuable, but how much would change were probes to be as close as possible to the surface?
NASA may have the next technology to take a closer look at Saturn and Jupiter readily at hand. And this technology is wind-powered, which might rendered it quite cost-effective. Windbots are still a tech concept, bound to come to reality in the near future.
Developed by Adrian Stoica, the concept takes on dandelions for instance:
“A dandelion seed is great at staying airborne. It rotates as it falls, creating lift, which allows it to stay afloat for long time, carried by the wind. We’ll be exploring this effect on windbot designs.”
The idea that will boost data-gathering on gas giants and perhaps other space objects as well was awarded 100,000 dollars by NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program. Windbots are deemed a better technology in specific environments that would not allow solar-powered bots or others to do the job.
Windbots will thus harness wind gusts. These are not even required to be constant, as the power would be efficiently harnessed to keep the windbot afloat long enough until another breeze would steer it in the atmosphere of gas giants.
“a new class of robotic probe designed to stay aloft in a planet’s atmosphere for a long time without wings or hot-air balloons”.
Wind that changes velocity, strength and direction is the power source of the windbots. As windbots evolve from concept to a functional prototype, more information will be made available on the technology.
Currently working in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Adrian Stoica cannot give any specifications on how the prototype will look. A lot of variables remain unknown, as the exciting venture is just getting started.
One variable that needs to be studied is the intensity and patterns of winds on Saturn and Jupiter.
The award-winning tech concept promises to become the future of outer-planet exploration as wind-borne bots are just in the incumbent phases of development.
Photo Credits jpl.nasa.gov