New video beamed back to Earth from the Perseverance Rover shows an incredibly detailed view of the Ingenuity helicopter’s flight back in September. The video – taken from about 300 meters (328 yards) away — shows Ingenuity’s takeoff and landing with such detail, that even a little plume of dust is visible during the helicopter’s ascent.
It’s hard to overstate how amazing this is. The precise nature of the planning and execution of capturing this video meant coordinating the timing with both the rover and helicopter teams and uploading precise commands to Mars for both robots– one to do the flight and the other to start filming, all at the exact moment. The commands were likely sent to Mars several days in advance.
The videos show Ingenuity’s 13th flight, taken on September 4, 2021. The helicopter’s 16th flight was planned for over this past weekend – likely on November 20. We’ll share info from that flight when available.
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The videos from Flight 13 were captured by the rover’s two-camera Mastcam-Z. The ‘right eye’ of the Mastcam-Z, JPL said, captured a close-up view where Ingenuity’s flight is visible in detail, while the ‘left eye’ captured a wide-angle view of the flight where the helicopter looks like just a moving speck. But this second view show the expansive region that the helicopter covered in its flight.
“The value of Mastcam-Z really shines through with these video clips,” said Justin Maki, deputy principal investigator for the Mastcam-Z instrument, in a press release. “Even at 300 meters [328 yards] away, we get a magnificent closeup of takeoff and landing through Mastcam-Z’s ‘right eye.’ And while the helicopter is little more than a speck in the wide view taken through the ‘left eye,’ it gives viewers a good feel for the size of the environment that Ingenuity is exploring.”
Here’s the zoomed-out left-eye view:
The 13th flight was 160.5 seconds long. NASA said that Flight 13 stands out as one of Ingenuity’s most complicated because it involved flying over varied terrain with different heights. The helicopter also was programed to take pictures of the different geological features, taking images of an outcrop from multiple angles for the rover team. Acquired from an altitude of 26 feet (8 meters), the images complement those collected during Flight 12, providing valuable insight for Perseverance scientists and rover drivers.
“We took off from the crater floor and flew over an elevated ridgeline before dipping into Séítah,” said Ingenuity Chief Pilot Håvard Grip of JPL. “Since the helicopter’s navigation filter prefers flat terrain, we programmed in a waypoint near the ridgeline, where the helicopter slows down and hovers for a moment. Our flight simulations indicated that this little ‘breather’ would help the helicopter keep track of its heading in spite of the significant terrain variations. It does the same on the way back. It’s awesome to actually get to see this occur, and it reinforces the accuracy of our modeling and our understanding of how to best operate Ingenuity.”
The wide-angle view also shows how Ingenuity maintains altitude during the flight. After an initial ascent to 26 feet (8 meters) altitude, the helicopter’s laser altimeter notes a change in elevation of the terrain below as it heads northeast toward the ridgeline. Ingenuity automatically adjusts, climbing slightly as it approaches the ridge and then descending to remain 26 feet (8 meters) above the undulating surface. Once it flies to the right, out of view, Ingenuity collects 10 images of the rocky outcrop with its color camera before heading back into frame and returning to land in the targeted location.
Lead image caption: Artist’s impression of the Mars Ingenuity helicopter flying from the Perseverance rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech