Flight 16 – Little hop north

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With Flight 15, Ingenuity began the return trip to “Wright Brothers Field” at “Octavia E. Butler Landing,” the site where Perseverance landed with Ingenuity in February. This flight was performed with the rotor speed recently increased to 2,700 rpm. After reviewing Flight 15 data, the Ingenuity team is ready to attempt our Flight 16 at the earliest. Saturday November 20.

Flight 16 will be a shorter flight of 109 seconds. The Ingenuity will climb up to 33 feet (10 meters), glide over the “Raised Ridges” at 3 mph (1.5 meters per second), then land near the edge of “South Séítah”, covering a distance of 380 feet (116 meters) . We plan to capture a series of nine color Return-to-Earth (RTE) camera images evenly spaced throughout the flight, facing southwest and away from the flight path.

If we could fly through Séítah on Flight 9, why do we split the return route into several segments? As noted in the Flight 9 retrospective post, Séítah’s terrain is particularly challenging for Ingenuity’s navigation algorithm. Since the navigation algorithm assumes flat terrain, any change in terrain height introduces heading error. On Flight 9, Ingenuity landed 154 feet (47 meters) from the center of our 164-foot (50 meter) radius target airfield. The heading error on Flight 9 was less of a concern because the terrain at South Séítah was benign and allowed for a large degree of uncertainty in our landing position. However, the terrain on the north side of Séítah is rockier. As a result, we need to be more precise in our landing location on the way back. Flight 16 will tackle the tricky terrain of the Raised Ridges. By flying short over these ridges, we reduce the accumulated heading error that can accumulate over longer flights.

Flight 16 will set up Ingenuity for a crossing of Séítah on Flight 17, bringing us closer to the current objective of Wright Brothers Field. While waiting for the Perseverance rover to catch up after Flight 17, the Ingenuity team plans to perform a flight software update to enable new navigation capabilities and better prepare Ingenuity for future flights.

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