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Image credit: Johns Hopkins

A quadrocopter could be used to explore Saturn's largest moon

If accepted, Johns Hopkins' Dragonfly drone would enter service in 2019.
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Back in 2014, NASA proposed using drones to explore Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Well, three years later, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab has a pitch for the aeronautics agency. Like NASA suggested a few years ago, Hopkins' craft is a quadrocopter. The school said that its Dragonfly drone is ideal for exploring the moon given its dense atmosphere and weak gravity, making it "perfect" for heavier-than-air flight. "A human could actually strap on wings, flap their arms and fly," Peter Bedini says in the video below.

The craft's mission would entail going from one geologic site to the next, examining the moon's oceanic surface and atmosphere to see how viable it'd be for human habitation.

"Mass spectrometry would reveal the composition of the surface and the atmosphere," the school writes. "Gamma-ray spectrometry would measure the composition of the shallow subsurface. Meteorology and geophysics sensors would measure atmospheric conditions such as wind, pressure, temperature and other factors, as well as seismic activity. Additionally, a camera suite would characterize the geologic and physical nature of the moon's surface and help find subsequent landing sites."

If you're wondering how the Dragonfly will maintain power throughout its missions, here's a hint: It won't be gathered from the sun. Instead, a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator will keep the craft in the air.

Compared to a land-based craft, the school says that the Dragonfly is much more efficient because it can, well, fly, from one test site to another and give more of a return on investment. Sometime later this fall NASA will make its pick for the winning New Frontiers mission and said mission is expected to launch in the middle of 2019.

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