Illustration of Artwork of Ingenuity helicopter.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Martian helicopter has made its 34th flight – a short, low altitude hop – but a test of its get-up-and-go.

The 18 second flight and climb to 16 feet (5 meters) took place on November 23rd, during Sol 625 of the Perseverance rover’s wheeling across the Red Planet.

Flight 34 is a continuation of the handling quality testing of the aircraft.

New capabilities

According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, prior to this flight, lab specialists carried out a large-scale update of the Ingenuity software. “This update provides the aircraft with two major new features: crash prevention during landing and the use of digital elevation maps for easier navigation.”

This image acquired by Ingenuity Mars helicopter on Nov. 23, 2022 (Sol 625 of the Perseverance rover mission) and the date of Ingenuity’s 34th flight. Image taken using the vehicle’s navigation camera mounted in the helicopter’s fuselage and pointed directly downward to track the ground during flight.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The successful flight simply “popped up” to an assigned height, hovered, then landed.

“Over the past few weeks, the operations team has been at work installing a major software update aboard the helicopter,” explains Joshua Anderson, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Operations Lead. “This update provides Ingenuity two major new capabilities: hazard avoidance when landing and the use of digital elevation maps to help navigate.”

Software update

Anderson explained in a website posting that Flight 34 may not seem like much, but it was Ingenuity’s first with this software update.

“The team will use results from this simple flight to start testing these new capabilities, ensuring that everything works as expected on the surface of Mars,” Anderson added. “The update brings out new functionality in Ingenuity, making it a far more capable vehicle and effective scout for Perseverance. We’re all excited to see where this update will allow us to take Ingenuity’s journey next!”

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