Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Insect Vehicles, Part 2

Beetles in flight are as amazing as butterflies or dragonflies. They have to lift their rigid wing covers and position them forward of the flapping wings.

The sketches below are of some insect-based aliens for a science fiction universe with sentient flying robots. I looked through lots of photos of insects, trying to dream up different ways to use the body plan of a beetle or a fly as a starting point.

A vehicle would require many of the same functional elements as a natural creature, namely: optical sensors, landing gear, external armor, wings and wing covers, fuel intake tubes, and offensive and defensive weapons systems.

The design assumption we’ve had until recently is that the manufacturing process would lead to artificial beings with an industrial geometry of straight lines and circles.

But recent advances in computer-aided design and manufacturing, and even computer-aided evolution suggests that vehicles of this kind might begin to mimic the organic lines and surfaces of real insects, like the longhorn beetle Callipogon armillatus, which is a marvel of natural engineering.


An entymologist friend gave me this amazing 5-inch-long specimen, which I love to study when I’m trying to imagine new kinds of vehicles. To learn about exoskeleton engineering, I also gather up parts from crabs and lobsters that wash up on the beach.

Image of pine beetle in flight from the NSF, link.

11 comments:

Brian Vasilik said...

Wonderful way to brainstorm insect vehicles. Makes me think of the work of industrial designer and visual futurist Syd Mead.

Last year I was in Amsterdam and went to the Rembrandt House Museum. In the Cabinet (Kunstcaemer) room he kept "his collection of objects d’art and rarities. Arranged on shelves around the walls were innumerable rare objects, many of which came from distant lands. Rembrandt collected seashells, corals, dried animals and exotic weapons." We know what was in the room because he went bankrupt in 1656 and all his belongings were catalogued. Here is the museum's website. http://www.rembrandthuis.nl/cms_pages/index_main.html

Your longhorn beetle looks like something that would have been in his room.

Robb said...

Those. Drawings. Look. So. Cool. OMG.

Les said...

Jim, you have such a wide-ranging curiosity, analytical ability, and talent. And obviously a great work ethic. Inspirational. Well done.

-Les

Christian Supiot said...

Hi, I remember the air-vehicles from Dune in the films and the novels...

Nice work, and nice web...

Hello from Spain.

John Calvin said...

I remember the band "Journey" had some insect-inspired-type vehicles from their albums of the late 70's and 80's. I loved theirs, and I love yours -- great work.

Munchanka said...

I love the upper-lefthand fly with the laser turret. I definitely would have purchased that toy as a kid. Or at least demanded for it for Christmas.

asd said...

Create your personal zoo and have many many animals

http://kibora.mondozoo.com

Shawn said...

You've inspired me YET AGAIN!! Here's my ship concept based on a wasp - Wasp Transport Unit

Z-Kids said...

Awesome!

Jonathan said...

Thought you might like a link to some bird sized robots one of which looks like a hummingbird. We're moving in the right direction to see some of those things flying. :D
http://www.boingboing.net/2009/08/13/nano-air-vehicle-tak.html

James Gurney said...

Thanks for those cool links, Shawn and Jonathan. That DARPAbot seems to be extremely maneuverable.