Motivation and Goal of the Project, on Mars and on Earth
For more than two decades, Mars has been of great interest for scientific exploration, using orbiting spacecrafts or landers. Orbiters like "Mars Express" cover large areas and give images of the surface with a resolution limited to several meters. Rovers missions, like "Pathfinder" or "MER", offer the ability to maneuver to scientifically interesting sites, perform analysis of soil and rock composition, but are limited in range to the immediate surroundings of the landing site. There is a strategic gap for systems that would combine high-resolution imagery and extensive coverage, with freely selectable flight zone.
There are already other projects that aim at flying on Mars, the most famous beeing ARES or AME projects. These two aircrafts can embed an important payload for scientific operations but they are quite heavy and have a short autonomy. On the opposite, Sky-Sailor will be limited to lightweight sensors and scientific instruments, but its coverage possibilities and autonomy will allow it to achieve very long period missions, anytime, anywhere.
On Earth also, an airplane able to fly autonomously for many days could find a lot of applications. Examples are coast or border surveillance, atmospherical and weather research and prediction,
environmental, forestry, agricultural, and oceanic monitoring, imaging for
the media and real-estate industries, etc. Additional advantages of solar
airplanes are their low cost and the simplicity with which they can be
launched. For example, in the case of potential forest fire risks during a
warm and dry period, swarms of solar airplanes, easily launched with the
hand, could efficiently monitor a large surface, reporting rapidly any fire
starts. This would allow a fast intervention and thus reduce the cost of such
disaster, in terms of human and material losses. At higher dimension, solar
HALE platforms are expected to play a major role as communication relays
and could replace advantageously satellites in a near future.