These cute little windbots could one day fly the skies over Jupiter & Saturn.
NASA and windbot fleets on Jupiter – Wait what!? Yep, you heard us right. The National Aero Space Agency has just hand-picked a project by a team of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory which intends to send robotic “windbots” to the gas giant in order to study its weather patterns.
The $100,000 prize money given by NASA will in no way fund the whole project, but is intended to be used to conduct a feasibility test and see whether this idea will actually be possible to put into practice. IF all goes well, the team plans to begin adapting the idea for the other big gas giant of our system – Saturn.
Adrian Stoica, an engineer with JPL, says that he could easily imagine a whole network of little robots surviving for a really long time in the atmospheres of the most mysterious planets of our solar system – Jupiter and Saturn. This could also prove useful, he says, in conducting research on our own weather, as it would provide different points of view to how these systems function.
The primary concern for these windbots is said to be their self-sufficiency. One would imagine that a little droid stuck so far away from home and inside the atmosphere of a gas giant would not get much love from our sun. Therefore it needs have alternative fueling methods.
The JPL team proposed planetary forces as the ones to fuel the probe – wind force, temperature changes or Jupiter’s own magnetic field. The principle behind these would be just as one would use a kinetic watch.
Another issue that needed tackling was the lift problem. How does one such small device, with no wings, stay in the air? Well, after being deployed safely at great altitude on Jupiter, it would make use of several rotors spread across its surface so that it can correct its height and easily navigate the troubled and ever-changing cloud system.
To be able to precisely orient itself, the small probe would need sensors on all of its body. Still, as it goes, the winds on Jupiter would rotate it, and as basic physics dictates, it should lift itself back up, provided the winds don’t stop. Have you ever lost a beach-ball in the wind? That’s a crude example of what these little devices would do.
Still, the feasibility study will determine how big the probes need to be, as well as many other specifications that are needed. Other similar devices that have won the Nasa Innovative Advanced Concepts are the robotic eel, Roboeel, to be sent to Europa’s waters, as well as atmospheric probes to be sent to Venus. These would resemble airships, and could even carry humans.
Image source: jpl.nasa.gov