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Unmanned Solar-Powered Drone Could Survey Alien Worlds for an Entire Year
Global aerospace and defense technology company Northrop Grumman is confident that it already has the technology to build an unmanned inflatable aircraft that could explore other worlds. The company announced plans to build a drone that would take advantage of the fierce winds and intense sunlight found on our neighboring planet Venus. Solar panels, heat conversion technology, and the ability to glide would enable the drone to explore for up to a year unaided.
Northrop Grumman calls their dream drone the Venus Atmospheric Maneuverable Platform, or VAMP. To get the drone where it needs to go, it would have to be transported to Venus onboard a mothership. Once there, the mothership would lower the drone into the planet’s atmosphere and inflate it with hydrogen before its final release.
Once airborne, the drone would switch between gliding and self-propelled flight during the day. During the nights, however, which are 70 hours long on Venus, it has to rely on a system that converts heat from the radioactive decay of plutonium-238 into electricity. Between these different systems, the aircraft is able to provide for, and carry, 440 pounds of scientific instrumentation. The drone itself weighs 992 pounds and has an impressive wingspan of 151 feet.
This is just one permutation of the company’s drone, which could also be designed to explore other destinations such as Mars and Titan. Not only could the unmanned aircraft provide valuable atmospheric information, but it could also aid in the search for life on other planets. In the very distant future, and assuming you believe it’s possible, they could also become instrumental in establishing and maintaining other world colonies.
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