ExoFly: Mars' first tourguide

You know those insect-like micro air vehicles (MAV) we've been seeing? Well, the ExoFly aerobot is based on that camera-equipped DelFly design, only this time it's gearing up for a trip to Mars -- maybe even Titan or Venus. Turns out flapping-wing flight is perfect for the low-density Martian atmosphere. The current prototype -- weighing 17g with a wingspan of 350mm and flight time of twelve minutes -- is being tweaked for use in future missions to Mars. The folks at Delft University of Technology and Wageningen University, who've teamed up with Ursa Minor Space & Navigation, plan on increasing the weight to 20g and adding an on-board solar cell, which they reckon should extend the flight distance to 15km. There's also talk of using the digital terrain and image data gathered to simulate a 3D immersive environment for detailed analysis of extraterrestrial destinations -- hopefully viewable by those of us who don't have the billions to drop on a flight to Mars.

[Via New Scientist Space]