Ingenuity (helicopter)

  (Redirected from Mars Helicopter Ingenuity)

Ingenuity, nicknamed Ginny, is a small robotic helicopter operating on Mars as part of NASA's Mars 2020 mission along with the Perseverance rover, which landed on February 18, 2021. Two months later, on April 19, Ingenuity successfully completed the first powered controlled extraterrestrial flight by an aircraft – taking off vertically, hovering, and landing, for a flight duration of 39.1 seconds.[5][6][7] As of December 15, 2021, the helicopter has made 18 successful flights.

Part of Mars 2020
A robotic helicopter on the surface of Mars.
Ingenuity on Mars at Wright Brothers Field, April 7, 2021 (sol 46), photographed by Perseverance rover
TypeExtraterrestrial autonomous UAV helicopter
Serial no.IGY (civil registration)
ManufacturerJet Propulsion Laboratory
Dimensions121 cm × 49 cm (48 in × 19 in)
Dry mass1.8 kilograms (4.0 lb)[1]
PowerSolar array; 350 W (0.47 hp)[2]
LocationJezero crater, Mars[3]
First flight
  • 19 April 2021, 07:34 UTC
Last flight
  • 15 December 2021, 12:25 UTC
Flight time32 minutes, 51 seconds
Travelled3.82 km (2.37 mi) on Mars as of 15 December 2021[4]

Ingenuity was designed and built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Other contributors include NASA's Ames Research Center, NASA's Langley Research Center,[8] AeroVironment, Inc., SolAero, and Lockheed Martin Space.[9] Ingenuity's rotors measure 1.2 m (4 ft),[1][10][11] while its entire body is 0.49 m (1 ft 7 in) tall.[1] Its fuselage measures 13.6 cm × 19.5 cm × 16.3 cm (5.4 in × 7.7 in × 6.4 in), and sports four landing legs that are 0.384 m (1 ft 3.1 in) long each.[1] Ingenuity is operated by solar-charged batteries that power dual counter-rotating rotors mounted one above the other. During its 30-day technology demonstration, Ingenuity was intended to fly up to five times at altitudes ranging 3–5 m (10–16 ft) above the ground for up to 90 seconds each.[1][12] The expected lateral range was exceeded in the third flight, and the flight duration was exceeded in the fourth flight. With those technical successes, Ingenuity achieved its original objectives. The flights proved the helicopter's ability to fly in the extremely thin atmosphere of another planet over a hundred million miles from Earth without direct human control. Ingenuity operates autonomously, performing maneuvers planned, scripted and transmitted to it by JPL.

After the brief demonstration phase, JPL then began more flights as operational demonstrations, to show how aerial scouting can benefit future exploration of Mars and other worlds.[13][14] In its operational role, Ingenuity is observing areas of interest for possible examination by the Perseverance rover.[15][16][1][17]

Ingenuity travelled to Mars attached to the underside of Perseverance, which touched down at the Octavia E. Butler Landing site in Jezero crater on February 18, 2021.[18][19][20] The helicopter was deployed to the surface on April 3, 2021,[21][22] and Perseverance drove approximately 100 m (330 ft) away to allow the drone a safe "buffer zone" in which it made its first flight.[23][24] Success was confirmed three hours later in a livestreaming TV feed of JPL mission control.[25][26][27] On its fourth flight, April 30, 2021, Ingenuity became the first interplanetary spacecraft whose sound was recorded by another interplanetary spacecraft, Perseverance.[28]

Ingenuity carries a piece of fabric from the wing of the 1903 Wright Flyer, the Wright Brothers' airplane used in the first controlled powered heavier-than-air flight on Earth. The initial take-off and landing area for Ingenuity is named Wright Brothers Field as a tribute.[29] Before Ingenuity, the first flight of any kind on a planet beyond Earth was an unpowered balloon flight on Venus, by the Soviet Vega 1 spacecraft in 1985.[30]


The main components of Ingenuity
Flight characteristics of Ingenuity
Rotor speed 2400–2700 rpm[1][11][31]
Blade tip speed <0.7 Mach[32]
Originally planned operational time 1 to 5 flights within 30 sols[1][2]
Flight time Up to 167 seconds per flight[33]
Maximum range, flight 625 m (2,050 ft)[33]
Maximum range, radio 1,000 m (3,300 ft)[17]
Maximum altitude 12 m (39 ft)
Maximum possible speed
  • Horizontal: 10 m/s (33 ft/s)[8]
  • Vertical: 3 m/s (9.8 ft/s)[8]
Battery capacity 35–40 Wh (130–140 kJ)[34]

The lower gravity of Mars (about a third of Earth's) only partially offsets the thinness of the 95% carbon dioxide atmosphere of Mars[35] thus making it much harder for an aircraft to generate adequate lift. The atmospheric density of the Red Planet is about 1100 as that of Earth at sea level, or approximately the same as 87,000 ft (27,000 m), an altitude never reached by existing helicopters. To keep Ingenuity aloft, its specially shaped blades of enlarged size must rotate at a speed at least 2400 and up to 2900 rpm, or about 10 times faster[10] than what is needed on Earth.[36][37] The helicopter uses contra-rotating coaxial rotors about 1.2 m (4 ft) in diameter. Each rotor is controlled by a separate swashplate that can affect both collective and cyclic pitch.[38]

There are two cameras on board: the downward-looking black-and-white navigation camera (NAV) and the color camera to make terrain images for return to Earth (RTE).[17] Although it is an aircraft, it was constructed to spacecraft specifications in order to endure the acceleration and vibrations during launch.[37] It also includes radiation-resistant systems capable of operating in the environment of Mars. The inconsistent Mars magnetic field precludes the use of a compass for navigation, so Ingenuity relies upon different sensors grouped in two assemblies. All sensors are commercial off-the-shelf units.

The Upper Sensor Assembly with associated vibration isolation elements is mounted on the mast close to the center-of-mass of the vehicle to minimize the effects of angular rates and accelerations. It consists of a cellphone grade Bosch BMI-160 Inertial measurement unit (IMU) and an inclinometer (Murata SCA100T-D02), which is used only on the ground prior to flight to calibrate the IMU accelerometers biases. The Lower Sensor Assembly consists of an altimeter (Garmin LIDAR Lite v3), both of the cameras and a secondary IMU, all mounted directly onto the Electronics Core Module and not onto the mast. The down-facing Omnivision OV7251 camera supports visual odometry, in which images are processed to produce navigation solutions that calculate helicopter position, velocity, attitude, and other variables.[17]

The helicopter uses solar panels to recharge its batteries, which are six Sony Li-ion cells with 35–40 Wh (130–140 kJ) of energy capacity[34] (nameplate capacity of 2 Ah).[17] Flight duration is not constrained by the available power, but by the motors heating up 1°C every second.[39]

The helicopter uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor with a Linux operating system.[40] Among other functions, this processor controls the visual navigation algorithm via a velocity estimate derived from terrain features tracked with the navigation camera.[41] The Qualcomm processor is connected to two flight-control microcontroller units (MCUs) to perform the necessary flight-control functions.[17]

The telecommunication system consists of two identical radios with monopole antennae which support the data exchange between the helicopter and the rover. The radio link is built upon the low-power Zigbee communication protocols, implemented via 914 MHz SiFlex 02 chipsets mounted in both the rover and helicopter. The communication system is designed to relay data at 250 kbit/s over distances of up to 1,000 m (3,300 ft). The antenna located on the solar panel of the helicopter weighs 4 grams and may communicate equally in all directions.[42]

The teamEdit

The Mars Helicopter team in 2018
Some of the Ingenuity team in 2019

The history of the Mars Helicopter team dates back to 2012, when MiMi Aung was leading then JPL director Charles Elachi on a tour of the Autonomous Systems Division. Looking at the drones demonstrating onboard navigation algorithms in one of the labs, Elachi asked, "Hey, why don't we do that on Mars?" Engineer Bob Balaram briefed Elachi about feasibility, and a week later Elachi told him, "Okay, I've got some study money for you". By January 2015 NASA agreed to fund the development of a full-size model, which came to be known as the "risk reduction" vehicle. As project manager, Aung assembled a multidisciplinary team of scientists, engineers, and technicians leveraging all of NASA's expertise.[43]

The JPL team was never larger than 65 full-time-equivalent employees, but program workers at AeroVironment and NASA AMES and Langley research centers brought the total to 150.[43] Team members include:

On June 15, 2021, the team behind Ingenuity was named the 2021 winner of the John L. "Jack" Swigert, Jr. Award for Space Exploration from the Space Foundation.[63]

Conceptual designEdit

Ingenuity upper swashplate assembly
A — Rotor blade; B — Pitch link; C — Servo; D — Swashplate

NASA's JPL and AeroVironment published the conceptual design in 2014 for a scout helicopter to accompany a rover.[8][64][65] By mid-2016, $15 million was being requested to continue development of the helicopter.[66] By December 2017, engineering models of the vehicle had been tested in a simulated martian atmosphere[17][10] and models were undergoing testing in the Arctic, but its inclusion in the mission had not yet been approved or funded.[67] The United States federal budget, announced in March 2018, provided $23 million for the helicopter for one year,[68][69] and it was announced on May 11, 2018, that the helicopter could be developed and tested in time to be included in the Mars 2020 mission.[70] The helicopter underwent extensive flight-dynamics and environment testing,[17][71] and was mounted on the underside of the Perseverance rover in August 2019.[72] NASA spent about $80 million to build Ingenuity and about $5 million to operate the helicopter.[73]

In April 2020, the vehicle was named Ingenuity by Vaneeza Rupani, a girl in the 11th grade at Tuscaloosa County High School in Northport, Alabama, who submitted an essay into NASA's "Name the Rover" contest.[74][75] Known in planning stages as the Mars Helicopter Scout,[32] or simply the Mars Helicopter,[11] the nickname Ginny later entered use in parallel to the parent rover Perseverance being affectionately referred to as Percy.[76]

Ingenuity was designed to be a technology demonstrator by JPL to assess whether such a vehicle could fly safely. Before it was built, launched and landed, scientists and managers expressed hope that helicopters could provide better mapping and guidance that would give future mission controllers more information to help with travel routes, planning and hazard avoidance.[77][78][79] Based on the performance of previous rovers through Curiosity, it was assumed that such aerial scouting might enable future rovers to safely drive up to three times as far per sol.[80][81] However, the new AutoNav capability at Perseverance significantly reduced this advantage, allowing the rover to cover more than 100 meters per sol.[82]

Preliminary tests on EarthEdit

In 2019, preliminary designs of Ingenuity were tested on Earth in simulated Mars atmospheric and gravity conditions. For flight testing, a large vacuum chamber was used to simulate the very low pressure of the atmosphere of Mars – filled with carbon dioxide to approximately 0.60% (about 1160) of standard atmospheric pressure at sea level on Earth – which is roughly equivalent to a helicopter flying at 34,000 m (112,000 ft) altitude in the atmosphere of Earth. In order to simulate the much reduced gravity field of Mars (38% of Earth's), 62% of Earth's gravity was offset by a line pulling upwards during flight tests.[34] A "wind-wall" consisting of almost 900 computer fans was used to provide wind in the chamber.[83][84]: 1:08:05–1:08:40 

Mission profileEdit

After deployment, the rover drove approximately 100 m (330 ft) away from the drone to allow a safe flying zone.[21][22] The Ingenuity helicopter was expected to fly up to five times during a 30-day test campaign, early in the rover's mission.[1][12]

Ingenuity hanging from the belly of the Perseverance rover during deployment to the Martian surface

Each flight was planned for altitudes ranging 3–5 m (10–16 ft) above the ground, though Ingenuity soon exceeded that planned height.[1] The first flight was a hover at an altitude of 3 m (9.8 ft), lasting about 40 seconds and including taking a picture of the rover. The first flight succeeded, and subsequent flights were increasingly ambitious as allotted time for operating the helicopter dwindled. JPL said the mission might even stop before the 30-day period ended, in the likely event that the helicopter crashed,[84]: 0:49:50–0:51:40  an outcome which did not occur. In up to 90 seconds per flight, Ingenuity could travel as far as 50 m (160 ft) downrange and then back to the starting area, though that goal was also soon exceeded with the fourth flight.[1][46] The helicopter uses autonomous control during its flights, which are telerobotically planned and scripted by operators at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). It communicates with the Perseverance rover directly before and after each landing.[84]: 1:20:38–1:22:20 

After the successful first three flights, the objective was changed from technology demonstration to operational demonstration. The goal shifted towards supporting the rover science mission by mapping and scouting the terrain.[85] While Ingenuity would do more to help Perseverance, the rover would pay less attention to the helicopter and stop taking pictures of it in flight. JPL managers said the photo procedure took an "enormous" amount of time, slowing the project's main mission of looking for signs of ancient life.[86] On 30 April 2021, the fourth flight successfully captured numerous color photos and explored the surface with its black-and-white navigation camera.[46] On May 7, Ingenuity successfully flew to a new landing site.

On 5 September 2021, after successful completion of the Operations Demonstration phase, the mission was extended indefinitely.[87]

Operational historyEdit

Comparison of total distance traveled between Ingenuity and Perseverance.[a]
Tracks and locations of Perseverance and Ingenuity as of November 6, 2021[88]

Perseverance dropped the debris shield protecting Ingenuity on March 21, 2021, and the helicopter deployed from the underside of the rover to the martian surface on April 3, 2021.[89] That day both cameras of the helicopter were tested taking their first b/w and color photos of the floor of Jezero Crater in the shadow of the rover.[90][91]

Ingenuity's rotor blades were successfully unlocked on April 8, 2021 (mission sol 48), and the helicopter performed a low-speed rotor spin test at 50 rpm.[92][93][94][95]

A high-speed spin test was attempted on April 9, but failed due to the expiration of a watchdog timer, a software measure to protect the helicopter from incorrect operation in unforeseen conditions.[96] On April 12, JPL said it identified a software fix to correct the problem.[24] To save time, however, JPL decided to use a workaround procedure, which managers said had an 85% chance of succeeding and would be "the least disruptive" to the helicopter.[44]

On April 16, 2021, Ingenuity successfully passed the full-speed 2400 rpm rotor spin test while remaining on the surface.[97][26] Three days later, April 19, JPL flew the helicopter for the first time. The watchdog timer problem occurred again when the fourth flight was attempted. The team rescheduled the flight, which succeeded on April 30. On June 25, JPL said it had uploaded a software update the previous week to permanently fix the watchdog problem, and that a rotor spin test and the eighth flight confirmed that the update worked.[51]

The Ingenuity team plans to fly the helicopter every two to three weeks during its indefinitely extended mission.[87] The helicopter's longer-than-expected flying career lasted into a seasonal change on Mars, when the atmospheric density at its location became even lower. The flight team prepared by commanding Ingenuity to ground-test a faster rotor blade rotation, needed for sufficient lift. JPL said the higher planned flight speed of 2700 rpm would pose new risks, including vibration, power consumption and aerodynamic drag if the blade tips approach the speed of sound.[31] The test speed was 2800 rpm, giving a margin for increase if the intended flight speed of 2700 is not enough. Ingenuity faced another challenge to remain functional during the Martian winter and solar conjunction, when Mars moves behind the Sun, blocking communications with Earth and forcing the rover and helicopter to halt operations. The shutdown happened in mid-October 2021, for which preparations started in mid-September.[98][99] The helicopter remained stationary at its location 575 feet (175 meters) away from Perseverance and communicated its status weekly to the rover for health checks.[100] JPL intended to continue flying Ingenuity since it survived solar conjunction.[101][102]NASA leadership has acknowledged that extending the mission adds to the original Ingenuity budget of $80 million but has stated that any increase would be minimal compared to what NASA is learning.[103]

List of flightsEdit

(Record values highlighted)

Flight No. Date (UTC)
Duration (sec) Max Altitude Horizontal Distance Max Groundspeed Route Summary
Technology Demonstration Phase
1 April 19, 2021 at 07:34
(Sol 58)
39.1 3 m (9.8 ft) 0 m (0 ft) 0 m/s (0 mph) Vertical takeoff, hover, land at Wright Brothers Field (JZRO) 18°26′41″N 77°27′04″E / 18.44486°N 77.45102°E / 18.44486; 77.45102[88] The first powered flight by any aircraft on another planet. While hovering, it rotated in place 96 degrees in a planned maneuver. Flight data was received at 11:30 UTC.[6][104]
2 April 22, 2021 at 09:33
(Sol 61)
51.9 5 m (16 ft) 4 m (13 ft) Roundtrip 0.5 m/s (1.1 mph) Hover, shift westward 2 m (6.6 ft), hover, return, hover, land[105][45] 18°26′41″N 77°27′04″E / 18.44486°N 77.45102°E / 18.44486; 77.45102[88] From its initial hover, it tilted 5 degrees, allowing the rotors to fly it 2 meters sideways. It stopped, hovered in place, and rotated counterclockwise, yawing from +90° to 0° to -90° to -180°, in 3 steps, to point its color camera in various directions to take photos. After that it flew back to its takeoff location.[106]
3 April 25, 2021 at 11:31
(Sol 64)
80.3 5 m (16 ft) 100 m (330 ft) Roundtrip 2 m/s (4.5 mph) Hover, shift northward 50 m (160 ft), return, hover, land[54][107] 18°26′41″N 77°27′04″E / 18.44486°N 77.45101°E / 18.44486; 77.45101[88] This was first flight to venture some distance from the helicopter's deployment spot. It flew downrange 50 meters at a speed of two meters per second. After a short hovering above the turnback point it returned to land at the departure spot.[108] Data from the flight was received at 14:16 UTC.[107]
4 April 29, 2021[109] (Sol 68) First attempt of flight 4 failed Onboard software did not transition to flight mode.[51][13][110]
April 30, 2021 at 14:49.[46]
(Sol 69)
116.9 5 m (16 ft) 266 m (873 ft) Roundtrip 3.5 m/s (7.8 mph) Hover, shift southward 84 m (276 ft), hover, return, hover, land[111] 18°26′41″N 77°27′04″E / 18.44486°N 77.45112°E / 18.44486; 77.45112[88] Took color images while hovering at its farthest point from takeoff.[46] During the fourth flight Perseverance rover recorded both audio and video of Ingenuity,[112] making the helicopter the first interplanetary vehicle whose sound was heard and recorded by another interplanetary vehicle.
5 May 7, 2021 at 19:26[113]
(Sol 76)
108.2 10 m (33 ft) 129 m (423 ft) 2 m/s (4.5 mph) Hover, shift southwards 129 m (423 ft), climb to 10 m (33 ft), hover, land at Airfield B 18°26′34″N 77°27′05″E / 18.44267°N 77.45139°E / 18.44267; 77.45139[88] This was the first flight to land at a new location 129 m (423 ft) to the south. On arrival, it gained altitude, hovered, captured a few color terrain images and then landed at that new site, Airfield B.[39][114] This flight was the last in the technology demo phase.
Operation Demonstration Phase
6 May 23, 2021 at 5:20[56]
(Sol 91)
139.9 10 m (33 ft) 215 m (705 ft) with direction changes 4 m/s (8.9 mph) Shift southwest about 150 m (490 ft), southward about 15 m (49 ft), northeast about 50 m (160 ft), land at Airfield C 18°26′30″N 77°27′00″E / 18.44166°N 77.44994°E / 18.44166; 77.44994[88] Towards the end of the first leg of the route a glitch occurred in the navigation images processing system. An image was dropped, and subsequent images with incorrect timestamps resulted in the craft tilting forward and backward up to 20 degrees, with large spikes in power consumption. Flying in that mode continued until the successful landing about 5 m (16 ft) away from the planned spot.[56][115]

This was the first flight where the helicopter had to land at an airfield which was not surveyed by any means other than MRO orbital imagery.[116][117]

7 June 6, 2021[51] (Sol 105) First attempt of flight 7 failed Onboard software did not transition to flight mode.[51]
June 8, 2021 at 15:54
(Sol 107)
62.8[118] 10 m (33 ft)[119] 106 m (348 ft) 4 m/s (8.9 mph) Shift southward 106 m (348 ft) to land at Airfield D 18°26′24″N 77°27′01″E / 18.43988°N 77.45015°E / 18.43988; 77.45015[88] Flew 106 m (348 ft) south to a new landing spot and landed at Airfield D. The color camera was not used to prevent the glitch of flight 6 happening again.[120][121]
8 June 22, 2021 at 0:27[122]
(Sol 121)
77.4 10 m (33 ft) 160 m (520 ft) 4 m/s (8.9 mph) Shift south south-east 160 m (520 ft) to land at Airfield E[51] 18°26′14″N 77°27′03″E / 18.43724°N 77.45079°E / 18.43724; 77.45079[88] Flew about 160 m (520 ft) south to land at Airfield E, about 133.5 m (438 ft) away from Perseverance rover. Like in the previous flight, the color camera was switched off.[51]
9 July 5, 2021 at 9:03[119]
(Sol 133)
166.4 10 m (33 ft)
625 m (2,051 ft)
5 m/s (11 mph)
Shift southwest 625 m (2,050 ft) to Airfield F 18°25′41″N 77°26′44″E / 18.42809°N 77.44545°E / 18.42809; 77.44545[88] Flew southwest, over Séítah, a prospective research location in Jezero crater. This flight strained the navigation system, which assumed flat ground while Séítah had uneven sand dunes. This was partly mitigated with the helicopter flying slower over the more challenging regions of the flight. Landing occurred 47 m (154 ft) from the center of the 50 m (160 ft) planned ellipse. [50][123][57]
10 July 24, 2021 at 21:07[52]
(Sol 152)
12 m (39 ft)
233 m (764 ft)[119] 5 m/s (11 mph) Loop south and west over Raised Ridges to Airfield G 18°25′41″N 77°26′37″E / 18.42808°N 77.44373°E / 18.42808; 77.44373[88] Looped south and west over Raised Ridges, another prospective research location on Mars. A total distance of 233 m (764 ft) was flown past 10 waypoints, including takeoff and landing.[125]
11 August 5, 2021 at 4:53[62]
(Sol 164)
130.9 12 m (39 ft) 383 m (1,257 ft) 5 m/s (11 mph) Shift northwest 383 m (1,257 ft) to land at Airfield H 18°25′58″N 77°26′21″E / 18.43278°N 77.43919°E / 18.43278; 77.43919[88] Transition to the takeoff point of the next flight planned to take the photographs of South Séítah.[62][126]
12 August 16, 2021 at 12:57[53]
(Sol 174)
10 m (33 ft) 450 m (1,480 ft) Roundtrip 4.3 m/s (9.6 mph) Landing point was assigned the name Airfield H again 18°25′58″N 77°26′21″E / 18.43268°N 77.43924°E / 18.43268; 77.43924[88] The round trip northeast and back about 235 m (771 ft) long. The return path was about 5 m (16 ft) to the side to allow another attempt of paired images collection for a stereo imagery. Landed about 25 m (82 ft) east from the takeoff point.[127][128]
13 September 5, 2021 at 00:10[129]
(Sol 194)
160.5 8 m (26 ft) 210 m (690 ft) Roundtrip 3.3 m/s (7.4 mph) Landing point was assigned the name Airfield H again 18°25′58″N 77°26′21″E / 18.43285°N 77.43915°E / 18.43285; 77.43915[88] Roundtrip northeast for about 105 m (344 ft)northeast and back. The flight concentrated on one particular ridgeline and outcrops in South Séítah.
14 September 16, 2021 (Sol 204) to October 23, 2021 (Sol 240) Flight attempt at 2700 rpm was automatically canceled due to a servo motor anomaly.[31]
Ground tests and flight postponed until after end of solar conjunction.
Faster rotor spin at 2800 rpm was successfully tested on the ground.[130] Servo motor "wiggle" tests were done in an effort to diagnose the problem that prevented flight.[31][131] After the solar conjunction the 50 rpm rotor spin ground test was successfully performed.[132]
October 24, 2021 at 8:18
(Sol 241)
23.0 5 m (16 ft) 2 m (6.6 ft)[133] 0.5 m/s (1.1 mph) Hover, shift eastward 2 m (6.6 ft), hover, land again near Airfield H[31] 18°25′58″N 77°26′21″E / 18.43284°N 77.43920°E / 18.43284; 77.43920[88] Flight 14 was a brief verification of faster rotor spin at 2700 rpm, needed during seasonal lower atmospheric density.[134][135]
15 November 6, 2021 at 16:22

(Sol 254)

128.8 12 m (39 ft) 407 m (1,335 ft) 5 m/s (11 mph) Shift southeast 407 m (1,335 ft) to land at Airfield F 18°25′43″N 77°26′42″E / 18.42871°N 77.44501°E / 18.42871; 77.44501[88] First in a series of four to seven flights on a return journey to Wright Brothers Field. This leg ended in the Raised Ridges region.[136][137]
16 November 21, 2021 at 2:09[138]

(Sol 268)

107.9 10 m (33 ft) 116 m (381 ft) 1.5 m/s (3.4 mph) Shift northeast 116 m (381 ft) to land at Airfield J 18°25′48″N 77°26′47″E / 18.43013°N 77.44645°E / 18.43013; 77.44645[88] Landed near the edge of South Séítah, prior to crossing that area on multiple impending flights.
17 December 5, 2021 at 12:25
(Sol 282)
116.8 10 m (33 ft) 187 m (614 ft) 2.5 m/s (5.6 mph) Shift northeast 187 m (614 ft) to land at Airfield K 18°25′59″N 77°26′52″E / 18.43306°N 77.44771°E / 18.43306; 77.44771 Flew halfway across South Séítah along the heading of flight 9 but in the reverse direction.[139] There was a loss of communication between itself and the rover during the final descent, roughly 3 m (10 ft) off the ground, but JPL reported "We believe the flight was a success" based on available telemetry. On Sol 285, Ingenuity relayed more information on its status. The data suggested the helicopter was upright, based on its solar arrays charging its batteries, which cannot be done if the helicopter is sideways. JPL said local terrain and Perseverance positioning probably had interrupted communication between the rover and helicopter.[140]
18 December 15, 2021 at 17:27[141][142]
(Sol 292)
124.3 10 m (33 ft) 230 m (750 ft) 2.5 m/s (5.6 mph) Shift northeast ~200 m (660 ft) to land just near the northern edge of South Séítah at Airfield L18°26′10″N 77°27′00″E / 18.43623°N 77.45011°E / 18.43623; 77.45011 Flying across South Séítah along the heading of flight 9 but in the reverse direction to land near flight 9 takeoff spot. It is another in a series of flights returning Ingenuity to Wright Brothers Field.The Airfield L is marked by featureless sandy terrain. Initially chosen for the lack of rocks to land safely, the area is actually so devoid of rock that warnings were reported during Flight 18 landing due to insufficient features to track in the vision navigation. As a result, fault protection parameters will be updated to mitigate the risk of a premature landing mid-ascent of Flight 19.
Scheduled or awaiting confirmation
19 January 7, 2022[143]
(Sol 314)
100 10 m (33 ft) 63 m (207 ft) 1 m/s (2.2 mph) Shift northeast ~63 m (207 ft) to land just near the northern edge of South Séítah at Airfield E
Flight 19 landing site as seen during flight 9
This flight takes the helicopter out of the South Séítah basin, across the dividing ridge, and up onto the main plateau. The precise landing target for Flight 19 is near the landing site of Flight 8. Images taken during Flight 9 by the rotorcraft’s high-resolution Return-To-Earth (RTE) camera were used to select a safe landing zone. It is another in a series of flights returning Ingenuity to Wright Brothers Field. This slower approach was taken due to the lack of large landing sites in this portion of Séítah and lower atmospheric density in the summer months which requires higher rotor speeds and power draw from the motors. The final act of the flight is to turn nearly 180 degrees to flip the RTE camera to a forward-facing orientation for future flights toward the river delta.

Flight totals[b]Edit

Flight property Since deployment
(April 3, 2021/Sol 43)
In tech demo phase In operations demo phase % Work done above
tech demo
Sols achieved 284 31 253 761%
Number of flights 18 5 13 240%
Distance flown (m) 3.82 km (2.37 mi) 0.50 km (0.31 mi) 3.32 km (2.06 mi) 620%
Time flown (s) 1971 s
(32 min 51 s)
396 s
(6 min 36 s)
1575 s
(26 min 15 s)

Ingenuity's imageryEdit

Count of stored images from both cameras per each flight[144]
Flight No. Date (UTC) and Mars 2020 mission sol Photographs Comments
Before April 19, 2021 (sol 58) 6[91] 6[145] Preflight camera tests
1 April 19, 2021 (sol 58) 15
2 April 22, 2021 (sol 61) 17 3 The first color photosession
3 April 25, 2021 (sol 64) 24 4
4 April 30, 2021 (sol 69) 62 5
5 May 7, 2021 (sol 76) 128 6
6 May 23, 2021 (sol 91) 106 8
7 June 8, 2021 (sol 107) 72 0 RTE was turned off[51]
8 June 22, 2021 (sol 121) 186 0
9 July 5, 2021 (sol 133) 193 10
10 July 24, 2021 (sol 152) 190 10 Five pairs of color images of Raised Ridges taken to make anaglyphs.[52]
11 August 5, 2021 (sol 164) 194 10
12 August 16, 2021 (Sol 174) 197[146] 10 Five pairs of color images of Séítah taken to make anaglyphs.[53]
13 September 5, 2021 (Sol 193) 191[147] 10
September 16, 2021 (Sol 204) to October 23, 2021 (Sol 240) 6 1 preflight 14 tests
14 October 24, 2021 (Sol 241) 182
15 November 6, 2021 (Sol 254) 191 10
November 15, 2021 (Sol 263) 1 ground color photo[148]
16 November 21, 2021 (Sol 268) 185 9
November 27, 2021 (Sol 274) 1 ground color photo[149]
17 December 5, 2021 (Sol 282) 192
18 December 15, 2021 (Sol 292) 20

Ingenuity has two commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) cameras on board. The Sony IMX 214 with 4208 x 3120 pixel resolution is a color camera with a global shutter to make terrain images for return to Earth (RTE). The Omnivision OV7251 (640 × 480) VGA is the downward-looking black and white rolling shutter navigation camera (NAV), which supplies the onboard computer of the helicopter with the raw data essential for flight control.[17]

While the RTE color camera is not necessary for flight and may be switched off (as in flights 7 and 8[51]), the NAV camera works throughout each flight, catching the first frame before takeoff and the last frame after landing. Its frame rate is synchronized with blade rotation to ease online image processing.

During flight, all NAV frames must be carefully stored in the onboard helicopter computer, with each frame assigned the unique timestamp of its creation. Loss of a single NAV image timestamp was an anomaly that caused the helicopter to move erratically during flight 6.[56]

The monopole antenna of the base station is mounted on a bracket in the right rear part of the rover

The longer a flight lasts, the more NAV photos must be stored. Each new record flight duration automatically means a record number of images taken by the NAV camera. The frequency and timing of the camera's operations are predetermined not for the sake of records, but due to the technical necessity. A huge number of NAV files does not overload the local storage of the helicopter. Less than 200 NAV files are uploaded to the NASA storage after each flight starting from the 8th, and the total volume of this package is only about 5 Megabytes[146] The limitations are imposed by weakness of local telecommunications: when landed, helicopter relays data to the rover in a slow mode of 20 kbit/s.[17] Another significant inconvenience here is caused by the location of the antenna on the side of the rover: if turned wrong side to the helicopter, it may impede signal propagation with its massive metal body.

Most of the NAV files are not transmitted to the rover base station for return to Earth. After the fourth flight, MiMi Aung confirmed that "images from that navigation camera are typically used by Ingenuity's flight controller and then thrown away unless we specifically tell the helicopter to store them for later use".[46] From more than 4000 NAV files acquired on flight four, only 62 were stored.[150]

Small multicolored pebbles around Ingenuity at parking sites on sols 263 and 274

With the end of the flight technology demonstration, Perseverance project manager Jennifer Trosper relinquished her team's responsibilities for photographing Ingenuity to concentrate exclusively on the rover science mission of searching for signs of ancient Martian life. Without pictures from the rover, the flight team relied more heavily on photos taken by the helicopter NAV camera to confirm Ingenuity's location. The helicopter, however, does not create or refine the maps, but rather, depends upon work coordinated by the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center and performed by the NASA Mars and Lunar Cartography Working Groups.[citation needed]

To support the Mars-2020 mission, USGS used photos by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) to produce Context Camera (CTX) and Digital Terrain Models (DTM) and orthoimage mosaics. Those images were used by the Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN) feature on the Perseverance descent vehicle and helped determine the safest landing location.[151] Using maps created from photos and radar elevation data previously acquired by the MRO and other NASA missions, planetary cartographers manually correlate them with terrain features seen by Ingenuity's small and lens-distorted NAV images.[citation needed] After each NAV frame is assigned a georeference, the resulting flight maps are shown at NASA's Mars-2020 tracking service.[88] NAV frames from Ingenuity are also used to produce moving images that show the Martian terrain passing under Ingenuity during its flights.

In November 2021 the Ingenuity team started to supply scientists a new kind of photographic materials — the color photos taken on the ground during the interflight periods. By December, 3 two such photos were received on Earth, the first one acquired on November 15 (sol 263)[148] and another on November 27 (sol 274).[149]

Flights 3 through 9
Flight 3 (April 25, 2021)
Flight 4 (April 30, 2021)
Flight 5 (May 7, 2021)
Flight 6 (May 23, 2021)
last 39 seconds
Flight 7 (June 8, 2021)
(48 seconds)
Flight 8 (June 22, 2021)
(75 seconds)
Flight 9 (July 5, 2021)
full real-time animation
Flights 10 through 14
Flight 10 (July 24, 2021)
full real-time animation
Flight 11 (August 5, 2021)
full real-time animation
Flight 12 (August 16, 2021)
full real-time animation
Flight 13 (September 5, 2021)
full real-time animation
Flight 14 (October 24, 2021)
full real-time animation
Flights 15 through 18
Return flights to Wright Brothers Field ( JZRO)
Flight 15 (November 6, 2021)
191 frames
Flight 16 (November 21, 2021)
full real-time animation
Flight 17 (December 5, 2021)
full real-time animation
Flight 18 (December 15, 2021)
full real-time animation
Video footage of flight 13 (September 5, 2021) from Perseverance Mastcam-Z at a 300 m distance

Unlike Perseverance, Ingenuity does not have a special stereo camera for taking twin photos for 3D pictures simultaneously. However, the helicopter has made such images by taking duplicate color photos of the same terrain while hovering in slightly offset positions, as in flight 11, or by taking an offset picture on the return leg of a roundtrip flight, as in flight 12.[152]

As of December 16, 2021, 2091 black-and-white images from the navigation camera[144] and 104 color images from the terrain camera (RTE)[153] have been published.

Tributes to the Wright brothersEdit

NASA and JPL officials described the first Ingenuity flight as their "Wright Brothers moment", by analogy to the first successful airplane flight on Earth.[29][154] A small piece of the wing cloth from the Wright brothers' 1903 Wright Flyer is attached to a cable underneath Ingenuity's solar panel.[155] In 1969, Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong carried a similar Wright Flyer artifact to the Moon in the Lunar Module Eagle.

NASA named Ingenuity's first take-off and landing airstrip Wright Brothers Field, which the UN agency ICAO gave an airport code of JZRO for Jezero Crater,[156] and the drone itself a type designator of IGY, call-sign INGENUITY.[157][158][159]

Future Mars rotocraft design iterationEdit

Mars Science Helicopter, Ingenuity's proposed successor

The Ingenuity technology demonstrator could form the foundation on which more capable aircraft might be developed for aerial exploration of Mars and other planetary targets with an atmosphere like Mars Science Helicopter.[77][17][160] The next generation of rotorcraft could be in the range between 5 and 30 kg (11 and 66 lb) with science payloads between 0.5 and 5 kg (1.1 and 11.0 lb).[161] These potential aircraft could have direct communication to an orbiter and may or may not continue to work with a landed asset.[22] Future helicopters could be used to explore special regions with exposed water ice or brines, where Mars microbial life could potentially survive.[73][17]

Data collected by Ingenuity is supporting planning of a future helicopter design by engineers at JPL, NASA's Ames Research Center and AeroVironment. The Mars Science Helicopter, a proposed successor to Ingenuity, would be a hexacopter, or six-rotor helicopter, with a mass of about 30 kg (66 lb) compared to 1.8 kg (4.0 lb) of Ingenuity. Mars Science Helicopter could carry as much as 5 kg (11 lb) of science payloads and fly up to 10 km (6.2 mi) per flight.[161]



Mars helicopter Ingenuity, heard flying on Mars on its fourth flight


Deployment sequenceEdit

March 29, 2021: after Ingenuity was extended vertically into place after being rotated outward from its horizontal position on the belly of the rover, Perseverance takes photos for the panorama, catching in its field of view the debris shield which protected Ingenuity during landing and was dropped on March 21, 2021
Ingenuity helicopter: out from under the Perseverance rover
Before releasing Ingenuity the rover had to get rid of the pan which protected the feasible RIMFAX equipment during the landing stage
Debris shield released and dropped
Ingenuity swings down, with two of its four legs extended
Ingenuity with all legs extended
Pre-flight testing
Before tests
Rotor blades are unlocked for tests and flying
The slow-speed (50 rpm) spin up test on sol 48
The high-speed (2400 rpm) spin up test on sol 55

Maps of flightsEdit

The flight zone of the technical demonstration stage
The "Twitcher's Point"[c]
The Wright Brothers Field and the overlook location
The Wright Brothers Field
View of the field from the rover
Rover track and Wright Brothers Field
Second helipad[d]
Flights' paths of the operational demonstration stage
Flights 1–9
Profile of Flight 10
Profile of Flight 11
Flights 1–11
Flight profile for Ingenuity's Flight 15
Topography between Mars helicopter and rover for Flight 17

Images by PerseveranceEdit

Flights 1–4 viewed by the Perseverance rover
Flight 2 (22 April 2021)
Flight 3 (25 April 2021)
Landed after flight 3 (25 April 2021)
Flight 4 (30 April 2021)
Flights 5–8 viewed by the Perseverance rover
Flight 5 (7 May 2021)
Landed after flight 5 at Airfield B (7 May 2021)
One day after sixth flight (Sol 92)
Four days after 7th flight (Sol 111)
Seven days after 8th flight (Sol 127)

Images by IngenuityEdit

Flights 1-5[e]
The first color image (April 4, 2021)[f]
Sol 45 (6 April 2021): grounded before flights
In-flight image (19 April 2021, altitude 1.2 m (3 ft 11 in))
Landing after the first flight (19 April 2021)
First color aerial photo (22 April 2021, altitude 5.2 m (17 ft), flight 2)
Flight 3, rover is seen left-up from the 5.0 m (16.4 ft) height
Flight 3, the rover (enlarged)
Heading towards Airfield B (flight 4, 30 April 2021)
Flight 5, altitude 10 m (33 ft) (7 May 2021)
Perseverance rover (left) viewed about 85 m (279 ft) away from 5.0 m (16.4 ft) height (April 25, 2021)
Flights 6–9
Flight 6, view from 10 m (33 ft) towards Séítah
Flight 7, above the terrain (8 June 2021)
Flight 8, landed (22 June 2021)
Flight 9, flying over the Séítah (July 5, 2021)
Flights 10–13
Flight 10 over ridges
Flight 11 NW along Séítah
Flight 12 over Séítah
Flight 13 rover view
After conjunction: preflight tests and flights 14-16
The first ground photo after conjunction (sol 236)
Slow speed blade rotation test (sol 240)
Flight 14: a short hop
Flight 15 (6 November 2021)
Flight 16 (21 November 2021)
Post-flight 16 rover view
Miscellaneous animations
First flight (19 April 2021)
30 seconds hovering in the first flight
Landing after fifth flight at Airfield B (7 May 2021)
Flight 9, animation from the flight images
Flight 11 rover
Flight 11 ten slides
Pre-flight blade speed rotation test on sol 204
Ingenuity flight 19 preflight tests
Mars Helicopter tests on Sol 302

Self-portraits by Perseverance[g]Edit

Mars 2020 in Jezero crater on Mars — Self-portraits of the Perseverance rover showing Ingenuity helicopter
Ingenuity helicopter drop site, Wright Brothers Field
(April 2021)

Miscellaneous Ingenuity-related imagesEdit

Aircraft certification of Ingenuity to fly on Mars
Chief Pilot Håvard Fjær Grip, entering Ingenuity flight details in logbook
"Nominal Pilot's Logbook for Planets and Moons"
Ingenuity logbook entries for flights 9 and 10
Ingenuity's first flight altimeter data showing the flight period
(19 April 2021)
Ingenuity's second flight test data[h]
(22 April 2021)
Mars Helicopter JPL insignia

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Flights 1, 2 and 14 are not seen because they include little, if any, horizontal movement.
  2. ^ Numbers in chart are calculated by adding values from successive flights, starting with base values as shown in this NASA/JPL[53] update with regular updates of elements in flight table like this.
  3. ^ Now named Van Zyl overlook
  4. ^ HiRISE's view of Ingenuity's fourth flight path paving the way for it to move to second airfield on its fifth flight
  5. ^ All images taken by Ingenuity are from either its black-and-white downward-facing navigation camera[144] or from horizon-facing color camera;[153] landing legs are seen at the side edges of images
  6. ^ Perseverance Rover wheels are clearly seen in top corners
  7. ^ Only the self-portraits of Perseverance showing Ingenuity
  8. ^ This is an animated gif containing sequence of images on second test flight. First image shows Ingenuity's rotor power during flight two. Second image shows Ingenuity's horizontal position relative to start during flight one hover. Third image shows Ingenuity's collective control during flight one. Fourth image shows Ingenuity's lower cyclic control on flight one. Similar cyclic controls applied on the upper rotor. Fifth image shows Ingenuity's estimate of vertical velocity during flight two.



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  120. ^ Status 306.
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  129. ^ Status 329.
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  131. ^ Status 336.
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  138. ^ Status 346.
  139. ^ Status 349.
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Status reportsEdit

External linksEdit