Mars Helicopter

Mars Helicopter with Perseverance rover in the background

The Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity, is a technology demonstration to test powered flight on another world for the first time. It hitched a ride to Mars on the Perseverance rover. Once the rover reached a suitable "helipad" location, it released Ingenuity to the surface so it could perform a series of test flights over a 30-Martian-day experimental window. The first flight was successfully performed on April 19, 2021.

For the first flight, the helicopter took off, climbed to about 10 feet (3 meters) above the ground, hovered in the air briefly, completed a turn, and then landed. It was a major milestone: the very first powered flight in the extremely thin atmosphere of Mars, and, in fact, the first such flight in any world beyond Earth. After that, the team planned additional experimental flights of incrementally farther distance and greater altitude. After the helicopter completes its technology demonstration, Perseverance will continue its scientific mission.

  • Survive launch, cruise to Mars, and landing on the Red Planet.
  • Unlock and unfold from its stowed position underneath the Perseverance rover belly pan.
  • Deploy safely to the Martian surface.
  • Confirm communications with the rover and flight operators on Earth.
  • Keep warm autonomously through the intensely cold Martian night (as low as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 90 degrees Celsius).
  • Charge autonomously using its solar panel.
  • Confirm the energy and power model over multiple Martian days (monitoring daily power consumption, solar energy, and battery levels).
  • Unlock rotor blades.
  • Spin up rotor blades for the first time on Mars (to a speed below what would be needed for flight) while still on the surface.
  • Spin up rotor blades full-speed for the first time on Mars (to the planned flight speed of ~2400 RPM) while still on the surface.
  • Lift off for the first time in the thin Martian atmosphere.
  • Fly autonomously.
  • Land successfully.


First test of powered flight on another planet.


Built to be light and strong enough to stow away under the rover while on the way to Mars, and survive the harsh Martian environment after arriving on the surface. The helicopter weighs less than 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms).


Powerful enough to lift off in the thin Mars atmosphere. The atmosphere of Mars is very thin: less than 1% the density of Earth's.


The helicopter may fly for up to 90 seconds, to distances of almost 980 feet (300 meters) at a time and about 10 to 15 feet from the ground. That's no small feat compared to the first 12-second flight of the Wright Brothers' airplane.


The helicopter flies on its own, without human control. It must take off, fly, and land, with minimal commands from Earth sent in advance.

'Hover' or 'click' on the orange dots to learn about the parts on the Mars Helicopter.

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Mars Helicopter Artist's Concept


Radio antennas talk to Earth via the Mars 2020 rover and the Mars orbiters. x

Solar Panel

A solar panel helps keep the battery charged. x

Avionics & Body

Its avionics — or "brains" — help the helicopter function and navigate. The body has insulation and heaters to keep sensitive electronics warm and survive cold Martian nights. x

Sensors & Cameras

Sensors collect data on how fast the helicopter is traveling and in which direction. Cameras help the helicopter see. x


Made of carbon fiber foam core provide lift in the thin Mars atmosphere. x


Batteries help power the helicopter. x


Ultra-light legs made of carbon fiber tubes help it land after flight. x
Mass 1.8 kilograms
Weight 4 pounds on Earth; 1.5 pounds on Mars
Width Total length of rotors: ~4 feet (~1.2 meters) tip to tip
Power Solar panel charges Lithium-ion batteries, providing enough energy for one 90-second flight per Martian day (~350 Watts of average power during flight)
Blade span Just under 4 feet (1.2 meters)
Flight range Up to 980 feet (300 meters)
Flight altitude Up to 15 feet (5 meters)
Flight environment Thin atmosphere, less than 1% as dense as Earth's

Ingenuity hitched a ride on the Perseverance rover's belly, covered by a shield to protect it during the descent and landing. At a suitable spot on Mars, the shield covering beneath the rover dropped. Then, once at the selected flight zone, the team released the helicopter in several steps to get it safely onto the surface.