Floating ‘windbots’ are being designed by NASA as relatively low-cost way of exploring gassy planets.
NASA may use turbulence-powered ‘windbots’ to explore gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn.
The idea is for the devices to stay aloft by relying on turbulence from a planet’s atmosphere, and the concept is now being developed by space programme scientists.
NASA described the windbots concept as “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.”
Differences in wind velocity and strength would allow the windbots to boost their energy.
NASA jet propulsion expert Adrian Stoica said: “It’s a spring of energy a probe could drink from.”
He compared it to dandelion seeds, which can stay afloat for a long time thanks to wind movement.
To create an effective windbot, Mr Stoica said that the wind patterns on each planet must be studied and the devices adapted accordingly.
But there are also scores of other details to be hammered out.
Mr Stoica said: “There are lots of things we don’t know.
“Does a windbot need to be 10 metres in diameter or 100? How much lift do we need from the winds in order to keep a windbot aloft?”
Once these things are decided, prototypes will be tested using “carefully controlled turbulent airflows”.
He said that if the research team gets it right, multiple windbots could be deployed in a planet’s atmosphere for relatively low cost.
There they could carry out mapping missions, take photographs and carry out scientific experiments.
Source: SKY NEWS