With drones in and out of the news as they fly back and forth across Pakistan and Afghanistan every day, we know that, while we're able to pilot military aircraft remotely, it doesn't always work out as planned. But we keep the drones flying and that's because, sometimes, it makes sense not to risk the life of a pilot by putting him or her in a dangerous situation.
But Pakistan isn't the only dangerous environment. So, too, is the moon. And the surface of an asteroid. And other low-gravity environments that require parachutes and other safety equipment, but that NASA wants to visit anyway.
That's why NASA is working on eliminating the need for human pilots on some of its missions. The Robotic Lander Development Project taking place at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama is the next step toward reaching that goal. The team behind the project has successfully tested a hover lander and captured that test in the video embedded below. "The lander is captured in flight from overhead and side mounted cameras in high definition and infrared video," according to the video's description on YouTube. "The infrared video allows engineers to see how the vehicle is behaving thermally as well as how the thrusters pulse during [the] test since the thruster plumes are invisible to the naked eye."
"In this flight, the robotic lander flew up to 2.13 meters for 27 seconds, before landing safety," Wired UK explained. "This proves it could control its position, orientation and hover independently." The Robotic Lander team hopes to continue building on this success and is currently aiming to get the hover up to 30 meters for a full minute.
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