Você está na página 1de 6

Low-Altitude Imaging System for Celestials

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

5 The present invention generally relates to methods of photographing celestial


bodies. More specifically, the present invention is a low-altitude imaging system for
celestials that have little to no atmosphere. The present invention is able to fire a launch
module into the air such that it can take pictures or videos of the surrounding area. The
launch module may be recovered to allow for multiple launches.
10

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Space exploration is constantly testing the limits of human technology. As rovers


15are being deployed onto planets, moons, and other celestial bodies, it is becoming
necessary to perform reconnaissance on areas that are to be explored. Ideally, pictures
could be taken of the terrain by low-flying vehicles because they would be able to take
high quality photos without having to traverse rocky terrain. However, because the
atmospheres of many celestial bodies are not as dense as that of Earth, it is very difficult
20to design and control a flying vehicle for celestial exploration. This is especially the case
for the moon, which has close to no atmosphere. The problem arises in the fact that fixed-
wing and rotary-wing aircraft rely on the displacement of air to generate lift. When
working with a less dense atmosphere, there is less air to displace and therefore less lift
can be generated.
25 As a result, pictures are generally either taken by satellites orbiting the celestial
body or by the rover itself. Though some rovers are capable of directly communicating
with earth, relay satellites are often used to take pictures while in orbit and provide a
means of communicating with Earth more quickly. While satellite photos can be very
useful, they often do not provide angles that allow for the terrain to be easily analyzed.
30Moreover, it can be difficult to capture high quality photos from orbit. Pictures taken
directly from a rover have the advantage of being taken close to any potential obstacle,

1
allowing for improved image quality. However, because the camera is attached to the
rover, it is necessary for the rover to use valuable energy to get in position to take a
photo. In situations where the terrain is unfavorable, it can be very difficult to determine a
safe path of travel for the rover.
5 Accordingly, there is a need for a means of taking aerial photos and videos close
to the surface of a celestial body without a reliance on the bodys atmosphere. The
present invention is designed to provide this functionality by using a flight module which
is launched into the air and follows a quasi ballistic trajectory. In the preferred
embodiment, the flight module is launched by compressed air; however alternative
10methods, including spring-powered launch, may also be used. This invention can be used
to help plot out a planned path of travel for a rover and may also be used to see over
obstacles, such as hills and rock formations.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS


15
FIG. 1 is a schematic view of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a schematic view of an alternative embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 3a depicts the launch angle actuator being used to aim the barrel;
FIG. 3b depicts the flight module being launched;
20FIG. 3c depicts the camera taking a picture at the flight modules maximum height;
FIG. 3d shows the tether of the recovery module being pulled to retrieve the flight
module; and
FIG. 3e shows the flight module being collected by the scoop while the barrel is in a
lowered position.
25

DETAIL DESCRIPTIONS OF THE INVENTION

All illustrations of the drawings are for the purpose of describing selected
30versions of the present invention and are not intended to limit the scope of the present
invention.

2
With reference to the drawings, the present invention is a low-altitude imaging
system for celestials. The present invention can be repeatedly used to take aerial pictures
and videos of the surrounding area. This is done by launching a flight module over a
targeted area on a planet or moon. The flight module may record a video throughout the
5entirety of the modules trajectory or it may take a picture at the launch modules
maximum height. The present invention comprises a flight module, a launch module, and
a recovery module.
The flight module is a small projectile that is launched by the launch module. It is
equipped with a camera to allow for pictures to be taken and analyzed. The flight module
10comprises a shell, a window, a plurality of stabilizer fins, a camera, an accelerometer, a
wireless communication unit, a battery, and a power input ring. The shell is a hollow egg-
shaped housing that is used to protect the internal components of the flight module and
minimize the forces experienced during repeated launches and landings. In the preferred
embodiment, the shell is made from foam; however in alternative embodiments, other
15materials may be used. The window is located on the top of the shell and acts as a
protective barrier for the camera, while also being transparent. This permits the camera to
view the terrain through the window. In the preferred embodiment, the window is made
from a clear plastic; however any other clear and rigid material may be used in alternative
embodiments. A plurality of stabilizer fins is located on the bottom of the shell. While the
20flight module is in the air, the stabilizer fins are used to minimize the amount of rotation
that the flight module experiences. This is necessary to help ensure that the camera will
always be facing downward for the entirety of the modules trajectory. The camera
attached to the shell and encompassed by the window. Its purpose is to take pictures and
record videos of the surrounding terrain when the flight module is in the air. The
25accelerometer is located inside the shell and is used to analyze the movements of the
flight module. After the flight module has been launched, it will follow a ballistic
trajectory. The accelerometer is used to detect when the flight module is at its maximum
height. It is at this point that the camera is used to take a picture of the terrain below the
flight module. The wireless communication unit is located inside the shell and is used to
30send and receive information from the rover. The wireless communication unit is also
programmed to trigger the camera based on the acceleration detected by the

3
accelerometer. In the preferred embodiment, the wireless communication unit uses
Bluetooth to send picture and video data to the rover after the flight module has been
recovered. The battery is located inside the shell and is used to power the camera, the
wireless communication unit, and the accelerometer. It is intended that the battery be
5rechargeable, such that multiple launches may be performed. The power input ring is
located around the inside surface of the shell. When used with the power output ring of
the launch module, the power input ring is used to recharge the battery. This is done
through inductive charging which uses an electromagnetic field to transfer energy from
the launch module to the battery of the flight module.
10 The launch module is designed to be mounted to a rover and used to project the
flight module high above the ground. The launch module comprises a barrel, a scoop, an
air tank, a compressor, a valve, a launch angle actuator, and a power output ring. The
barrel of the launch module houses the flight module before launch and is used to aim
where the flight module will be launched. In the preferred embodiment, the barrel is
15hollow and rectangular in shape; however, any other shape may be used in alternative
embodiments. The scoop is located on the end of the barrel and is used to recover the
flight module. The scoop extends at an angle from the end of the barrel such that when
the barrel is positioned horizontally, the scoop angles towards the ground, creating a ramp
for the flight module to be pulled up. The air tank is a hollow container that is used to
20store compressed air. The air stored in the air tank is attached to the barrel and used to
launch the flight module. The compressor is connected to the air tank and is used to take
air from the atmosphere and force it into a smaller volume, thereby increasing its
pressure. The compressor forces air into the air tank where it is stored until launch. Based
on how high or far the flight module needs to be launched; the compressor can be used to
25set different pressures for the air tank. The valve is located between the air tank and the
barrel and is used to restrict or permit the flow of air from the air tank to the barrel. While
the compressor is running, the valve is kept in the closed position to allow for the
pressure in the air tank to build. To launch the flight module, the valve is opened,
allowing all of the stored air to rush to the barrel. As the air tries to escape the barrel, it
30pushes against the flight module and forces it out of the barrel and into a ballistic
trajectory. The launch angle actuator is attached to the bottom of the barrel and is used to

4
set the elevation angle of the barrel. Based on the angle set by the launch angle actuator,
different heights, distances, and trajectories can be achieved. The launch angle actuator is
also used to lower the barrel when retrieving the flight module. When the flight module is
recovered, the launch angle actuator may also be used to remove dirt from the barrel by
5shaking it. Alternatively, this may be done by the rover. To maximize the simplicity of the
invention, all azimuth aiming is intended to be done by changing the position of the
rover. The power output ring is located around the inside surface of the barrel. When used
with the power input ring of the flight module, the power output ring is able to recharge
the battery of the flight module. The power output ring is positioned such that when the
10flight module is secured inside the barrel, the power input ring and the power output ring
will align concentrically. With the two rings aligned, energy is able to transfer to the
flight module. In the preferred embodiment, the power output ring receives power
directly from the rover. Generally, rovers are equipped with solar panels which provide
renewable energy which can be used to power multiple launches.
15 In an alternative embodiment, the launch module is spring-powered. This is
necessary for celestial bodies with no atmosphere. In this embodiment, the air tank,
compressor, and valve are replaced with a spring, a launch pad, a spring loading cable,
and a spring actuator. The spring is attached to the inside of the barrel and is used to
project the flight module. When the spring is compressed, it stores potential energy that is
20released during launch. The launch pad is attached to the top of the spring and is used to
push the flight module from the barrel. The launch pad resembles a large ring, having a
hole in the center which creates a space for the tether to pass through. The spring loading
cable attaches to the top of the spring and is used to compress the spring before launch.
The other side of the spring loading cable is attached to the spring actuator. The spring
25actuator is located inside the barrel and is used to pull on the spring loading cable, which,
in turn, compresses the spring. Depending on how high or how far the flight module
needs to be launched, the spring may be compressed to different lengths.
The recovery module is used to retrieve the flight module after it has been
launched. It comprises a tether, a recovery actuator, and a recovery sensor. The tether is
30attached to the back of the flight module on one end and to the recovery actuator on the
other hand. After the flight module has been launched, the tether is used to pull it back to

5
the rover and into the barrel. This eliminates the need for the rover to find the flight
module after it lands. The recovery actuator is located inside the barrel and is used to pull
on the tether and retrieve the flight module. The recovery actuator resembles a reel that
can wind and unwind the tether as needed. Depending on where the flight module is to be
5projected, the recovery actuator can be used to minimize the possibility of getting the
flight module snagged on rocks or other obstacles. For example, if the flight module is to
be taking pictures of an area over a hill, the recovery actuator can be set to begin reeling
in the tether once the flight module reaches its maximum height and takes a picture. By
reeling in some of the tether before the flight module lands, the flight module can be
10prevented from landing on the other side of the hill and potentially getting snagged.
Alternatively, the recovery actuator can be triggered after the flight module lands or can
be set to provide a constant pull on the tether. The recovery sensor is located on the inside
of the barrel and is used to detect the presence of the flight module. When the flight
module has been collected and is detected by the recovery sensor, the recovery actuator is
15turned off. In the preferred embodiment, a limit switch may be used to detect the presence
of the flight module; however, other, more advanced, methods may be used in alternative
embodiments.
Although the invention has been explained in relation to its preferred
embodiment, it is to be understood that many other possible modifications and variations
20can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.