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In other words, how big should an entomopter be so that it could fly in Mars' atmosphere and carry a payload of 1-2 kg? I'm trying to find out if an entomopter could be used to carry a spectral sensor camera (special kind of spectral sensor that would be smaller than those already existing). I'm also considering a robotic ornithopter for that mission. Do you know any other kinds of MAV's or UAV's suitable for carrying spectral sensors?

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    $\begingroup$ asking for any currently existing devices that can do this on Earth won't be helpful due to Mars 0.6% of Earth air pressure. Designing anything that can fly on Mars is orders of magnitude harder than for Earth. $\endgroup$ – SF. Jan 31 '17 at 22:54
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    $\begingroup$ The absolute limit in payload for a self-powered aircraft on Mars will depend on many thing, including the particular design, and how many minutes (or seconds) you would like it to stay airborne at a time. Maybe you can add link to a particular engineering desing for entomopter or ornithopter you are thinking of and/or other details, to make the question more answerable. Right now, I think one could build something that could keep 2kg a few centimeters above the surface for a few seconds, but that's probably not what you are looking for $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 1 '17 at 8:01
  • $\begingroup$ ...and by the way Welcome to Stackexchange - take the tour! Also see How do I ask a good question? in FAQ. Then see if you can edit your question and make it less broad. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 1 '17 at 8:03
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    $\begingroup$ Related questions: space.stackexchange.com/questions/19191/… and space.stackexchange.com/questions/17176/… . An entomopter has the same performance problems as other aircraft. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Feb 1 '17 at 14:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Uwe well it seems that powered fixed wing craft, battery-powered quadcopters, helicopters, and yes entomoters can all fly on Mars, we now have a list of things that are able to fly at 30km on Earth! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 3 '17 at 0:04
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As Hobbes mentioned, there was study funded by the seed program NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts in 2002 to look into the viability of entomopters for Mars exploration.

The results are available online. The team relied mainly on design analysis, but appears to have built a working version of the vehicle's "reciprocating chemical muscle" (RCM) for a small prototype.

The study's primary design point on page 49 suggests an entomopter with a 1.2m wingspan could have a relative lifting capacity of 1.5kg on Mars. Later, the study clarifies that only some of this mass is available as payload:

The weight of the RCM system plus a 10 minute fuel charge is on the order of 0.42 kg. Based on Table 3-2, this would leave 1.08 kg for mission payload equipment.

The RCM system in the proposed entomopter uses fuel, not electricity, meaning a user looking for more than 10 minutes of flight would have to sacrifice even more payload mass.

The study itself suggests using in-situ resource production to help overcome this, but this is itself another unproven technology. Even returning to a refueling station containing stockpiled fuel seems likely to be difficult - the proposed vehicle is not capable of hovering, making a precision landing unlikely.

In conclusion: it seems plausible that an entomopter could one day lift a payload on the scale you describe on Mars, but the vehicle does not seem like a great fit for the current model of slow, long term robotic exploration. To my knowledge, NASA has not funded a follow-up study for the concept.

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This study suggests that an entomopter with reasonable wingspan (on the order of 1 m) could achieve a 1 kg payload, if powered by a highly efficient engine running on e.g. hydrazine.

Based on the research conducted during this NIAC Phase II study, a design space has been identified in which Mars Entomopter flight is practical.

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