The Medusa is a lighter-than-air (LTA) vehicle aircraft that imitates the movement of a giant jellyfish by using a combination of light material and a new type of propulsion system.
Origin of the idea
Two things inspired me to create the Medusa. First, I recently read an article in Scientific American that explained how jellyfish manipulate physics to become the most efficient animals moving in the sea. Second, I read (for a second time) the novel Endymion by Dan Simmons; inside the book, Raoul Endymion (The Hero) gets picked along his Journey by a creature that works a bit like the Medusa and giant jellyfish.
How it works
The Medusa would be designed to carry two passengers at a time in an ultra-light spherical cabin made of graphene fiber, a new type of material 100 times stronger than the strongest steel. This cabin would be suspended under an intermediate drive and propulsion system made of flaps that could also be used to steer the vehicle in one direction or another by varying the amount of force exerted on them.
An ultra-thin membrane located at the top of the Medusa would be able to contract itself under electrical impulses to create a movement similar to the way a jellyfish moves or (although this would be a different scenario) to a beating heart cycle. This membrane would be filled with a lighter-than-air gas and would serve the purpose of making the aircraft buoyant and moving it up or down through layers of air. This would be accomplished by playing on ultra-thin check valves embedded in the membrane. (They look like giant transparent holes on the Medusa drawings.)
Is it feasible to develop a biomimetic craft such as this one? Would it make sense to use such a technique to climb through the atmosphere? There are millions of planets out there with millions of different atmospheres. Their density varies, so maybe a system that imitates the way a jellyfish moves would be more efficient compared to what we have come up with so far.
What it’s used for
The Medusa could be used as a research platform to test new methods of propulsion and ultra-strong materials. A way to compensate for the up-and-down movement of the propulsion system would need to be integrated in the intermediate drive to minimize the effect on the occupant of the spherical cabin. Of course, there are hundreds of other issues that come to mind when thinking about such a concept, but that was my first draft. Your input is welcome, as always.
I would like to thank Adolfo Esquivel, who created the 3D renderings of the Medusa. Adolfo holds a degree in industrial design and currently works as a freelance industrial designer based in Montreal. Adolfo is also the author of the Magwa tailgate spa concept and the Zedix commuting bike.