Research will include further development of the vehicle configuration. It will continue the current Autonomy Incubator effort of developing visual odometry algorithms and Simultaneous Linearization and Mapping (SLAM) algorithms for specific application to Mars navigation in canyons and lava tubes. This effort will include wind tunnel testing in the LaRC TDT at Mars flight Reynolds number conditions to validate the design in Mars flight conditions. In addition, vacuum chamber tests and a balloon drop from high altitude (approximately 100k feet) will be performed to verify vehicle controllability and performance in Mars atmosphere density conditions.
Goal to mature the technology so it can be a payload on the Mars 2020 mission. Flight on Mars would allow better navigation scouting for the ground rover, identification of high-value science targets, and gathering of ultra-high definition imagery for science purposes and the future human missions.