Over the next few years, NASA and other space exploration agencies hope to send missions to more planets in the Solar System. In addition to the studies that have already started on Mars, NASA plans to send a mission to Venus to learn more about the planet. The mission will involve a study of Venus’ upper atmosphere which will help scientists know if the planet had liquid water at any time on its surface, or possibly even life.
In order to tackle this task, NASA recently partnered with Black Swift Technologies. They are one of the leading companies in the drone industry. They have been commissioned to make a special drone that could survive the upper atmosphere in Venus.
In the past few years, NASA has renewed their interest in Venus as a result of climate models indicating that much like Mars, Venus may also have had liquid water on its surface in the past. Scientists speculate the surface water would likely have been a shallow ocean covering most of the planet’s surface about 2 billion years ago, before a runaway Greenhouse Effect turned the planet into the hot place it is today.
According to Jack Elston who co-founded Black Swift Technologies, the drones would be operating just above the cloud layer which is known to have pressure and temperatures that are similar to those on Earth. However, the winds are a lot stronger on Venus which is a major design challenge. To tackle this, the company plans to design a drone that uses the strong winds as a source of power to keep the drone aloft.
NASA has already awarded the initial 6 month contract to Black Swift Technologies to design the drone according to their specifications. At the end of the 6 month period, Black Swift Technologies will present the concept to NASA for approval. If NASA likes the concepts, the next step would be for them to fund a two year project to make prototypes.
This is not the first partnership between Black Swift Technologies and NASA. Last year, NASA awarded the company with a contract worth $875,000 to design and build a drone to monitor the gas, winds, pressure levels, and the temperature inside the Costa Rica volcanoes. The drone will now be deployed to Hawaii to study geothermal activity in the area.