We’ve sent landers and rovers to Mars, but the next visitors to the Red Planet may be swarms of robotic bees.
NASA is funding preliminary work on the development of “flapping wing aerospace architectures,” or “Marsbees,” as a new tool for exploring the Martian environment.
The little bug-inspired robots — each about the size of a bumblebee — would sport battery-powered wings and various sensors. They would make brief flights, sampling the thin Martian atmosphere and reconnoitering the terrain below before returning to their home base — probably a rover — to recharge their batteries.
“Each Marsbee would carry an integrated video camera and the swarm could construct a 3-D topographic map of the local surface for rover path planning,” Dr. Chang-kwon Kang, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and one of the researchers working on the robotic bees, told NBC News MACH in an email.