With three flights under its belt, NASA’s Ingenuity has now concluded its technology demonstration phase. The mission team and NASA have been so impressed with its success so far that the mission is now in an operational demonstration phase.
"Now it's like Ingenuity's graduating from the tech demo phase, to the new ops demo phase, where we can show how a rotorcraft can be used, and show products that only an aerial platform from an aerial dimension can give," MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager, said in a press conference.
For the next 30 sols (Martian days), the little helicopter will assist Perseverance in spotting sites and interesting targets to explore. This is a very exciting change and will inform how a bespoke science helicopter on Mars will help rovers in studying the Red Planet.
Ingenuity’s fourth flight occurred today, April 30, and is the first of this new phase as well as the boldest, furthest, and fastest yet. We don't have data back yet, but the rotocopter will go on a 266-meter (873 feet) round trip and take about 60 black and white images to create 3D elevation maps of the terrain. The goal is simple: find a new landing strip. On flight no. 5, taking place in about a week, Ingenuity will take a single trip to the new airfield.
It is unsure how long Ingenuity can survive on Mars as it was not designed to survive for longer than 30 sols, so the team will assess the situation as they go.
The announcement was presented in an in-depth press conference that you can watch here: