Watch Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori pilot a drone set for Mars


Drones are primarily regarded as flying within the sky, the place they’re far sufficient over our heads to keep away from objects however low sufficient to nonetheless see them. Sometimes, chatter of underwater drones comes up. However drones in area have gotten a scorching subject today. And area explorers like Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori are getting their arms on them.

Normal Roberto Vittori, who flew three spaceflights together with the penultimate mission of the American Area Shuttle Program in 2011 (he was the final non-American to fly aboard the Shuttle), is now making a reputation for himself with not simply area flights, however flights quite a bit nearer to earth: drone flights.

Normal Roberto Vittori, who’s an Italian Air Pressure officer and ESA astronaut, co-piloted a Skycopter area drone as a part of a elaborate, reception-type occasion earlier this yr to have a good time Skypersonic’s involvement within the NASA-simulated Mars Mission. Skypersonic is a Detroit-based dronemaker most well-known for its Skycopter drone, which has a tiltable video digicam designed to work in excessive circumstances and ultra-tight areas.

At a coaching session in Italy to assist ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori put together for the drone demonstration flight at LoveITDetroit, Skypersonic chief pilot Giuliano Golfieri (proper) guides Vittori in utilizing the Skycopter drone’s digital piloting goggles. Picture courtesy of Skypersonic.

Certain, Vittori’s piloting is placed on public show for only a drone flight at a gala-esque get together, however the entire thing is fairly pleasant. And it’s a sign that critical movers and shakers within the broader aerospace trade have their eye on drones. In truth, alongside Normal Roberto Vittori’s reside drone flight on the gala, he joined Skypersonic Founder and CEO Giuseppe Santangelo; Simonetta Di Pippo, an Italian astrophysicist and former director of the United Nations Workplace for Outer Area Affairs (UNOOSA); and Vicky Selva, govt director of Michigan Protection Heart in a panel dialogue about drones and area.

Watch Vittori testing Skypersonic area drone know-how — which was accomplished forward of the reception — in a roughly three-minute lengthy video created by Skypersonic, right here:

The NASA-simulated Mars Mission is a one-year, analog mission designed to simulate life on Mars (or every other distant world in concept). In 2021, Skypersonic firm signed a five-year contract with NASA to offer drone and rover software program, {hardware} and help to that NASA-simulated Mars mission. As a part of that endeavor, Skypersonic final month introduced that it efficiently validated its know-how throughout 15 days of testing on Mt. Etna, an lively volcano in Sicily whose panorama is much like Martian geology.

Skypersonic’s drone tech stands out as a result of — whereas most drones can’t be piloted with out connecting to the GPS community — Skycopter makes use of know-how that is ready to management and monitor the drone in areas the place GPS is just not out there, , like Mars.

General Roberto Vittori
At a coaching session in Italy to assist ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori put together for the drone demonstration flight at LoveITDetroit, Skypersonic chief pilot Giuliano Golfieri (left) coaches Vittori in remotely piloting the Skycopter drone. Picture courtesy of Skypersonic.

Why astronauts are inquisitive about drones

Astronauts, rocket scientists, aerospace engineers and a myriad of folks who’re primarily centered on area are additionally incorporating drones into their work with rising frequency. As of late, a few of that’s definitely as a result of drones are set to be a key know-how utilized in NASA’s simulated Mars mission.

However NASA has lengthy been inquisitive about drones lengthy earlier than issues like pizza supply drones had been on folks’s minds. Even when merely flying on earth, drones have been in a position to present insights into what life past earth could be like, whereas additionally higher understanding little-known environments on our personal planet. For instance, within the mid-2010s, NASA used drones to discover volcanoes with a purpose of enhancing the accuracy of ash fall measurements. NASA has additionally invested cash in constructing drones that might fly off Earth for jobs reminiscent of navigating the corridors of an area station.

Different fascinating examples of astronauts colliding with drones embody NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski’s invention of a joystick that places all the first drone struggle controls right into a single hand. The aim of that? To revolutionize robotic surgical procedure.

Over at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, JPL robotics engineers have experimented with Shapeshifter, a swarm of small robots that may morph into totally different autos to discover alien worlds, simply to call a number of.

NASA’s stake in UTM

And maybe most influential to the drone trade is the stake NASA has taken in managing drone air site visitors, often called UTM (Unmanned Visitors Administration). Even earlier than everybody had a neighbor who had a DJI Mavic, NASA was engaged on UTM proposals for the Federal Aviation Administration, which included conducting reside, public demonstrations of UTM operations and internet hosting public workshops the place suggestions from common of us was welcome. NASA’s exams had been used as “a proof of idea for UTM capabilities and function the premise for coverage issues, requirements growth and the implementation of a UTM system,” in line with an announcement from the FAA.

As of late, a lot of NASA’s UTM-related work consists of establishing partnerships with different huge drone gamers like Zipline to review how one (or a number of) folks can efficiently handle a far bigger fleet of autonomous autos, below what’s referred to as the NASA (m:N) mission.


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