NASA wants to send a quadcopter drone to Titan


Jesus Diaz

NASA wants to search Saturn’s moon Titan for life but they’re having trouble coming up with a good way to cover a large territory and obtain samples. Now they think they may have a good solution: A 22-pound quadcopter that will work from a mothership. After reading about it, it’s a really cool idea.

Larry Matthies—a Senior Research Scientist and the supervisor of the Computer Vision Group, in the Mobility and Robotic Systems Section of the JPL in Pasadena, California—thinks that this may be the only solution that can achieve mission objectives—the search for life or prebiotic chemistry in one of the places in the solar system more likely to have it—safely and at low cost and low risk.

A lander will not cut it because it can’t move. They need to explore this world. A balloon or an airplane can easily move, but they can’t be the solution because they can’t access the surface. And a large, long-range helicopter can work, but it is way too expensive and risky. So he combined all of these ideas and came up with something relatively low cost, low risk, and absolutely logical