Ingenuity’s 62nd Flight And Attempting A New Speed Record

One of the fun aspects of exploring a new planet is that you can set a lot of new records, as is the case with the very first Mars-based helicopter, Ingenuity. Since its inaugural flight on April 19th of 2021, Ingenuity has flown 61 times, setting various records for distance traveled and other parameters. Although setting the first record is easy on account of anything being better than literally nothing, the real challenge lies in exceeding previously set records, as the team behind Ingenuity seeks to do again with flight 62 and a new speed record.

Targeting October 12th, the goal is to travel 268 meters (1.33 furlong) at a maximum altitude of 18 meters while hitting 10 meters per second (36 km/h), which would shatter the 8 m/s (28.8 km/h) set by flight 60. Although still quite a distance to the 240 m/s required to hit Mach 1 on Mars, the fact that this feat is being performed by a first-of-its-kind helicopter in the thin Martian atmosphere, using off-the-shelf components that were expected to last maybe a handful of flights, is nothing short of amazing.

(Thanks to [Mark Stevens] for the tip!)

(Top image: Fourth flight of Ingenuity (circled), captured by Perseverance rover. Source: NASA/JPL)

17 thoughts on “Ingenuity’s 62nd Flight And Attempting A New Speed Record

  1. The Ingenuity helicopter technology demonstrator – it doesn’t just test what is involved in successfully operating a helicopter on Mars, it also demonstrates the successful use of inexpensive, vastly more powerful commercial off-the-shelf electronics there which will enable far more sophisticated AI in the future.

    The avionics design is required to have low mass, low power and adequate radiation tolerance. A set of candidate parts to meet these requirements have been incorporated into the design which is now described.

    The Snapdragon processor with a Linux operating system performs high-level functions on the helicopter. The Snapdragon processor has a 2.26 GHz Quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor with 2 GB Random Access Memory (RAM), 32 GB Flash memory, a Universal Asynchronous Receiver Transmitter (UART), a Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI), General Purpose Input/Ouput (GPIO), a 4000 pixel color camera, and a Video Graphics Array (VGA) black-and-white camera. This processor implements visual navigation via a velocity estimate derived from features tracked in the VGA camera, filter propagation for use in flight control, data management, command processing, telemetry generation, and radio communication.

    The Snapdragon processor is connected to two flight-control (FC) Microcontroller Units (MCU) via a Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter (UART). These MCU processor units operate redundantly, receiving and processing identical sensor data to perform the flight-control functions necessary to keep the vehicle flying in the air. At any given time, one of the MCU is active with the other waiting to be hot-swapped in case of a fault. The MCU from Texas Instruments is a TMS570LC43x high-reliability automotive processor operating at 300 MHz, with 512 K RAM, 4 MB
    flash memory, UART, SPI, GPIO.

    The Snapdragon 801 is 2014 technology.


    Perseverance rover


    Radiation-hardened central processor with PowerPC 750 Architecture: a BAE RAD 750

    Operates at up to 200 megahertz speed, 10 times the speed in Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity’s computers

    That’s 1997 tech because it’s radiation hardened which, among other measures, requires much greater feature size.


    2 gigabytes of flash memory (~8 times as much as Spirit or Opportunity)
    256 megabytes of dynamic random access memory
    256 kilobytes of electrically erasable programmable read-only memory

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