Ingenuity skilled a “annoying” second on its sixth and newest flight earlier this week, in line with NASA, when the drone started oscillating wildly because of a picture processing glitch – earlier than managing to land safely.
Launched together with NASA’s Perseverance Rover, the small 1.8-kilogram Ingenuity drone is the first car to carry out managed aerial flight on one other world.
Over the previous few weeks it has carried out six profitable flights – so profitable that NASA lately prolonged the drone’s mission on Mars to assist the operations of Perseverance itself.
Nonetheless, whereas it’s first 5 flights handed with out incident, its newest flight on Saturday, Might 22, was barely extra dramatic.
In a weblog put up, the helicopter’s chief pilot, Havard Grip, detailed how the helicopter skilled a problem throughout the autonomous flight.
Ingenuity flies with the assistance of each an inertial measurement unit (IMU), to measure its acceleration and rotation, and picture processing software program, which analyses 30 pictures per second from the drone’s downward dealing with digicam.
Usually the drone applies a timestamp to every picture, permitting it to work out when and the place it was taken. However one thing went flawed on flight six.
“Roughly 54 seconds into the flight, a glitch occurred within the pipeline of pictures being delivered by the navigation digicam,” Grip wrote.
“This glitch triggered a single picture to be misplaced, however extra importantly, it resulted in all later navigation pictures being delivered with inaccurate timestamps.
“From this level on, every time the navigation algorithm carried out a correction based mostly on a navigation picture, it was working on the idea of incorrect details about when the picture was taken.”
Because of this, the helicopter stored making an attempt to right its estimates for its place, inflicting it to oscillate or wobble in mid-air when it was a number of meters off the bottom.
Fortunately, nonetheless, the drone was capable of get better and land inside 5 meters of its supposed touchdown web site. One cause is that “stability margins” are constructed into the helicopter’s software program to account for small errors like this.
The opposite is that the drone was capable of basically ignore the pictures it was seeing, and land merely utilizing its IMU as a substitute.
“Ingenuity ignored the digicam pictures within the last moments of flight, stopped oscillating, leveled its angle, and touched down on the velocity as designed,” says Grip.
“In a really actual sense, Ingenuity muscled by the scenario.”
Finally it’s hoped the incident will assist inform future operations of Ingenuity on Mars. Most of all, this can be a expertise demonstration to check out the best way to fly on Mars – with future scientific and human missions in thoughts – and thus ironing out any kinks is a vital half.
“Whereas we didn’t deliberately plan such a annoying flight, NASA now has flight knowledge probing the outer reaches of the helicopter’s efficiency envelope,” stated Grip.
“That knowledge will likely be rigorously analyzed within the time forward, increasing our reservoir of data about flying helicopters on Mars.”
NASA has not but introduced when the drone’s seventh flight will likely be, however hopefully it is going to be barely much less dramatic than the sixth.