Although a large majority of the proposed systems for upper atmospheric observation of Venus have consisted of either dirigibles or solar-powered heavier than air vehicles, both suffer from their own particular drawbacks and neither deal effectively with the high wind speeds. This work proposes a solution based on dynamic soaring, a proven method to extract energy from atmospheric wind shear that has propelled the fastest small-scale aircraft in the world, and provided the energy necessary for long-endurance low-level flights of birds across oceans. A deployable unmanned aircraft system (UAS) is proposed to not only survive in the harsh wind environment of Venus, but also simultaneously perform targeted sampling of the atmosphere while continuously extracting energy, even during the night. The design will be based on proven dynamic soaring platforms, but will be constructed in such a manner that allows for deployment from a standard aeroshell. Additionally, materials selection and construction methods will be finalized that ensure long-term survival in the corrosive cloud-top environment. The proposed system is small enough to allow up to eight aircraft to be deployed, or a smaller number can be used as secondary payloads for other primary vehicles such as a balloon or dirigible vehicles.
Beyond the obvious NASA application of a mission to Venus there are some other uses of the technologies developed here that will garner interest in other NASA missions. The three main pieces that will have wider interest is the autonomous dynamic soaring, the compact deployable aircraft, and survivability in toxic air. These capabilities will be applicable on Earth for hurricane sampling UAS missions, severe storm sampling, and measurement of volcanic plumes.
Agencies beyond NASA would greatly benefit from a system that harvests energy through dynamic soaring and provides lengthy observations above ridge lines and severe convective storms. NOAA would benefit from such a platform for hurricane observations and fire weather observations. The USGS would receive valuable data from a platform able to provide lengthy observations of volcanic emissions.