NASA has contracted Black Swift Technologies out of Boulder, Colorado to design and manufacture an unmanned aerial vehicle to orbit Venus and collect data about its atmosphere. The project will last six months costing the government $125,000 which will cover the full cost of developing the drone.

NASA’s plan

With the help of drones, NASA plans to fly just above the cloud layer in the upper atmosphere in search of organic material or evidence of such. There is no other information about how the mission will be carried out, but we expect more info to be released once the drone is finished by BST.

By generating lift and velocity through the variation in wind speeds, BST has proposed the idea of using dynamic soaring technology used currently by birds and radio-controlled gliders here on earth.

About Black Swift Technologies

You might have already guessed this, but Black Swift Technologies is a small company that specializes in unmanned aerial vehicles, typically custom systems to accomplish particular jobs, much like NASA’s goal of gathering data from Venus.

The small teams out of Colorado has overcome serious feats as stated by CEO Jack Elston:

“Black Swift Technologies has provided aerial solutions for wild land fires, volcanic observations, tornadoes, and hurricanes — some of the most extreme phenomena on Earth,” BST CEO Jack Elston said in a statement. “This mission is a natural extension of our focus, only now we are concentrating on the extreme conditions of Venus.”

Problems faced

Plenty of challenges lie ahead of BST due to the obvious challenges of space. Venus in itself isn’t the most forgiving planet in the solar system being second closest to the sun. The surface temperature is 873 degrees Fahrenheit (467 Celsius) although the drone will stay roughly 30 to 45 miles above the surface in that upper atmosphere. Conditions here are more Earth-like which will take some pressure off of BST.

The biggest problem faced is “super rotation.” Phys.org describes this as the act “in which the winds on Venus blow faster than the planet rotates.” These speed of these winds are as fast as 220 mph which poses a serious issue that BTS needs to overcome. On this issue, Elston said:

“Our solution will be designed to not only survive in the harsh wind environment but also simultaneously perform targeted sampling of the atmosphere while continuously extracting energy, even on the dark side of the planet.”

Of all the tasks drones are being given in today’s world, this is one of the first times we have seen them proposed for collecting data from an entirely new planet.

What do you think about drones making it into space? Let us know in the comments below.

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