Background: While watching SSERVI Director’s Seminar Series: RIS4E (Science and Exploration of the Moon, Near Earth Asteroids, the Moons of Mars enabled by the Remote In Situ and Synchrotron Studies for Science and Exploration), more info here, speaker Tim Glotch mentioned (roughly 26 minutes into the presentation) that they used kites and might use drones in the future to perform LiDAR scans of pits and otherwise untraversable terrain during their simulated lunar analog environment tests at Hawaii.
Obviously, as also mentioned by Tim Glotch in presentation, kites and conventionally propelled drones using aerodynamic lift wouldn't work on the Moon since there's no atmospheric pressure to speak of, but this got me thinking that future foot on the ground activities on the Moon might use some way of hovering communications and science equipment higher above ground level, say to support various in situ ground operations and communicate with a distant or obstructed from direct line of sight base. One idea I had could be a type of a suction tube that collects surface dust at its head end touching the ground, sucking dust towards its tail end, where the exhaust is redirected towards the ground to achieve thrust and enable it to hover at some distance to the ground. Wild? Perhaps, but similar works here on the Earth at six times the gravity too by using jets of water to propel aquatic hoverboards. Add a spatially aware controller software, a few high precision accelerometers and a gimballed nozzle to the mix, and you get an autonomously hovering structure that could suspend communications antennae and/or remote sensing equipment above the lunar ground by the pressure of its dust, and be portable and easily erectable / collapsible wherever needed.
To the question: Wild ideas aside (and yes, there are a few other problems with it I didn't yet manage to address like that it would stir a lot of dust unless it's a highly efficient and precise recycler / rebreather system), one thing I'm rather unsure of is how does one design the suction head so it starts working in a nearly no atmospheric pressure environment and with no surface tension to speak of? And once such a system would start, would the lunar dust itself, now hopefully an aerosol inside the tube, provide sufficient surface tension, or would it clog the suction tube if no additional gas is continuously supplied to such a system and mixed with the dust intake?
For what is worth, this is not only relevant to my imagination gone wild, but will surely have to be addressed to run, say, mass separation systems for lunar regolith ISRU (In Situ Resource Utilisation), removal of sharp silicate dust from breathable air environments, and if this works out well enough, perhaps even hovercraft as means of (safe and durable) transport on the sharp and abrasive lunar regolith surface.
Has any research institute, groups or inventive individuals published papers or patents on designing industrial continuous suction systems for use in exospheric conditions, preferably with tests done on lunar regolith simulant, and what were their conclusions / results?
What is the lunar dust analog to additionally supplied gas mass ratio that could start and sustain suction and what is the expected durability and most frequent failure points of such equipment? Also, has anything like it, on a smaller scale, perhaps been done / tested by any of the Apollo missions?
TL;DR - Yes, I'm basically asking how does one design a vacuum cleaner that would work in vacuum. Well, kinda. Read the question. :)