AE Unit 9
Remote Surveying
Remote Surveying Introduction

Now that we’ve talked about orbits and human physiology, it’s time to start planning the details of the Malemute Mars Mission and its arrival on Mars.  To do this, we need to learn about a new branch of aerospace engineering: remote sensing and surveying. In this unit you should be learning: 

  • How to plan and program a remote sensing module
  • How to collect and organize data from the remote sensing module
  • How to create and interpret topographical maps from remotely collected data

In the end, we need to be able to use your own ‘satellite’ to create a topographical map of the unknown Martian surface. As you develop your remote sensing solution, you’ll go through three major steps:

  • STEP 1: Learn about unmanned systems & exploration
  • STEP 2: Build, program, and test your remote sensing satellite
  • STEP 3: Create a topographic map of the unknown Martian surface

When you’re all done, you and your team will have designed a remote sensing satellite, collected data on the unexplored surface of Mars, and created a topographic map of your rover’s landing site!  You also will have built two quadcopters and practiced flying them.


Part 1: Unmanned Systems

Unmanned Systems

To get started with unmanned systems, we need to begin by learning about the kinds of unmanned vessels used in space.  We’ll start with a quick look at remote surveying satellites both on Earth and in other places in space. Then we’ll look at rovers of different kinds to think about how groups like NASA needed to design them in order to accomplish specific tasks.

You’ll also be asked to identify an Unmanned System that interests you and do some research to find out how it was made and how it is used.  These ideas together will give us a good perspective as we start designing our own remote satellites.


 Take 1 full page of detailed notes on unmanned systems and robot exploration

 Complete your own “Unmanned Systems Investigation”

 Have Mr. Benshoof confirm your notes and investigation

Getting Satellites to Space

LiDAR Remote Sensing

As our Malemute Mars Mission continues into Phase 3, our job is to design, build, and program a remote satellite.  Once our satellite is constructed, we’ll be able to use it to collect elevation data on the potential landing site for our Mars Mission.  To make this work, you and your team will need to decide what system you want to build with (FTC, VEX, Arduino, etc), and then construct a device that can collect the data we need.

Your job as a team will then be to build and program your data collection satellite. You’ll be able to test and practice to make sure it works, but once it blasts off for Mars you won’t be able to make any changes!


 Discuss the problem with your team and clearly define your design brief in your engineering notebook

 Design your satellite following the given parameters

 Build your satellite following the design plan you and your team made

 Program your satellite to collect the necessary data – be sure to test your design to make sure it works as needed!

 Have Mr. Benshoof review your design before it blasts off for Mars 

Remote Sensing 2

Active vs Passive Sensing

Part 3: Remote Surveying

With your surveying satellite complete, it’s time to send it Mars and get some data!  Your satellite is able to get into Martian orbit pretty quickly, and now you get to use it to collect data on the landing site.  This data can then be used to create a topographic map of the area for use in planning your rover’s journey in the next unit. The best map you can make here will really help you as you try to navigate the Martian surface later on!

For this final part of the unit, your team will run your satellite’s program as many times as you’d like to collect the best data you can on terrain elevation and any other pieces of information you find important.  Once this is done, you’ll use Excel to create topographic maps of elevation and other variables to help you in planning your rover’s travels.


 Run your satellite’s program to collect data

 Use Excel to turn your data into topographic maps

 Complete the Remote Surveying reflection in your engineering notebook

 Have Mr. Benshoof confirm your data and maps!

AE Unit 9 Map
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