The objective of this paper is to review the anticipated imaging and remote-sensing technology requirements for aerial vehicle survey missions to other planetary bodies in our Solar system that can support in-atmosphere flight. In the not too distant future such planetary aerial vehicle (a.k.a. aerial explorers) exploration missions will become feasible. Imaging and remote-sensing observations will be a key objective for these missions. Accordingly, it is imperative that optimal solutions in terms of imaging acquisition and real-time autonomous analysis of image data sets be developed for such vehicles.
Numerous researchers have proposed the use of robotic aerial explorers to perform scientific investigation of planetary bodies in our solar system. One of the essential tasks for any aerial explorer is to be able to perform scientifically valuable imaging surveys. The focus of this paper is to discuss the challenges implicit in, and recent observations related to, acquiring mission-representative imaging data from a small fixed-wing UAV, acting as a surrogate planetary aerial explorer. This question of successfully performing aerial explorer surveys is also tied to other topics of technical investigation, including the development of unique bio-inspired technologies. Imaging results from two seasons of flights at Haughton Crater, Devon Island, Canada, a well documented Mars Analog site, are presented.