During the war in Vietnam, the US Navy monitored the heart rates of some of their pilots. Flying though Hanoi’s air defenses understandably raised their pulse. However, their hearts went even faster at the end of the flight, when they had to land their jets on an aircraft carrier. These may be big for a ship, but they are very small for an airport. Unlike pilots, unmanned aircraft or ‘drones’ don’t have hearts and they are never tired. If a drone crashes or gets shot down, its pilot can’t get hurt or taken hostage. Instead, the operator is safely at his or her home base, in a comfortable chair in an air-conditioned container. So, it’s easy to see the attraction of unmanned aircraft. For the US Navy carrier landings remained a major hurdle, though. Enter the X-47B. Northrop Grumman built two of these weird-looking experimental jets, to demonstrate integrating unmanned combat aircraft into carrier operations. Between 2012 and 2014, the second of the two jets, nicknamed “Salty Dog 502”, performed several autonomous carrier landings and take-offs on three different aircraft carriers. At the time, the Navy expected to put unmanned combat aircraft into service in about five years’ time, but it has yet to happen.
Lately, I’ve been enjoying myself by building a series of LEGO models of experimental aircraft. Unusually, for me, these new models are mostly studless. I also built them to a scale for LEGO minifigures. Therefore there is a bit of irony in adding Salty Dog 502 to my collection. Not having to carve out space inside for a minifigure’s substantial rear end was a bit of a relief, though; I really struggled to fit a pilot in my YF-23. The X-47B is grey, much like operational US Navy aircraft. While its shape is certainly interesting, that is not enough for an attractive display. Fortunately, while the X-47 doesn’t need a pilot, it does require a ground crew to take care of it, like any other aircraft. So, I built a minifigure deck crew, as well as part of the deck and a small deck tractor to go with it. On US aircraft carriers the deck crew wears color-coded outfits that depict their different roles. These minifigures add a welcome splash of color.
As the future becomes ever more robotized and automated, I can only hope that human paramedics don’t get replaced with automated robotic doctors, conceptualized in this build by Djokson. With its syringe at the ready, held in one particularly well-constructed robotic hand, and its med-bag in the other, it looks ready to treat any injury or ailment you may have. However, I can’t help but look at that slightly smiling face and think how much I’d not want a robot making my life-or-death decisions.
With regards to the technicalities of the build itself, the builder has done an excellent job keeping a slim form on the robot, a welcome change in an age of increasingly bulky and utilitarian drones and mechs. The use of custom decals on the chest piece, and ever so small ones on the robots hips and med-bag complete the aesthetic of the build.
Anyone who’s seen The LEGO Movie knows LEGO is a highly sophisticated interlocking brick system. But it’s more than that, and sometimes we LEGO fans have a tendency to get caught up in what is and isn’t allowable when playing with our favorite plastic toys. Then along comes someone like Stijn van der Laan to shake up our expectations with a brilliant model like this that defies the normal bounds of what’s appropriate to do with LEGO. Stijn has transformed his excellent Peregrine drone model that we covered a few years ago by giving it a camouflage paint job.
Stijn actually recreated the design first using all red elements. Then he gave it a base coat of grey, and then carefully masked and airbrushed the modern camouflage design onto the model, as if it were a traditional cut-and-glue model kit. The result is fantastic, highlighting the striking design of the drone even more than Stijn’s original color scheme.
Now, you’re not likely to find me airbrushing my own LEGO creations anytime soon, but I admire the craft that goes into designing this, and it’s good to have our minds expanded a bit from time to time on just what is possible with this brick system we all use.
LEGO builder Markus Rollbühler returns to the Brothers Brick with WheelSpin, a mono-wheel utility drone. Part of the year-long Mech Monday project, WheelSpin is a self-balancing mono-wheel drone with multiple configuration options. The base of the mech is filled with great texturing, with greebles including Technic chain links, hammers, and space blasters. The lime green of the armor creates a nice contrast to the transparent blue of the eye sensor, blade shield, and the shock absorber at the base of the leg.
The industrial version shown here comes complete with a grabbing claw and saw blade — advertised as “perfect for any kind of industrial job.” Personally, I see it as greeter at Wal-Mart in a very dystopian future. Your mileage may vary.
Surveillance technology gets a creepy boost with Marty McFly, Cole Blaq’s latest creation. I’m not sure if this steampunk drone is designed to extract information or blood. It looks like it could do either. Or both. Probably at the same time. Like I said: Creepy.
From a LEGO perspective there are lots of things to love about this build. The spear gun proboscis and minifigure whip antennae fit the insect shaping well. The plastic insect wings are effectively incorporated. My favorite details, though, are the Imperial astromech droid heads. Those transparent domes perfectly combine the suggestion of circuity and faceted eyes.
Cole provides more great views of this creation in his blog post. While you’re there, take some time to explore this builder’s other amazing creations.
It is the mark of great talent when a LEGO creator can build something that rises above the simple bricks and other elements to be easily mistaken for a mass-produced plastic model. I have been a great fan of FLAVIO‘s WIFFY series of cute and capable drones for years. These incredibly intricate and detailed robots are built around a signature part, the soccer helmet, which reminds me of old-fashioned football helmets from the 1920’s. This well-armed WIFFY also features a number of the new espresso handles, bar holders, and bar holders with clips. Another great detail are the binoculars tucked in under those red eyes.
One of the most fun games I play with friends is Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, a tactical multiplayer game of attack and defend resolving bomb defusal or hostage situations. In the attack phase, I like playing as French GIGN operator Twitch, who is equipped with her own hand-crafted camera drone outfitted with a taser. To show some love for this game, I built the Shock Drone with LEGO in 1:1 scale.
The bulky design of the Shock Drone compared to other operators’ standard camera drones allowed enough room internally for Power Functions. Each front wheel is powered by a motor and controlled by SBrick, which, just like in Siege, allows me to control the drone with my phone. You can see it in action, as well as a glimpse at the internals and a gameplay comparison for those unfamiliar with Siege, in the video below.
Thanks to builders like Roland Skof-Peschetz, the age of steam is alive and well. According to Roland, this the K&K Luftpost uses this flying postal vehicle to deliver mail to the most remote locations of Austria. Upon seeing his quadcopter, the positioning of the four blades instantly reminded me of commercially available drones. Amazon, take note…We would like to see this quadcopter used for your Prime Air delivery service!
Check out more deatils on this Air Mail craft below
Have you ever wanted to build your own meatbag killing machine? Or perhaps a robot helper for your minifig friends? Have you seen a drone made by some dude who goes by Guy Smiley on the internet, and thought I need one of those…? Well now’s your chance, because I made instructions for my deadly little robot, to fulfill all your LEGO drone building desires.
No kidding! Just look at this drone’s face! Except for M9 Orangehead 5 Drone by Marco Marozzi has no “face” to express its emotions — it was created be fast, smart and efficient, and not to entertain you! But trust us, this drone is very happy to be of use.
Speaking seriously, there is so much remarkable about this drone. Orange panels and slopes go extremely well with a moderate amount of black and light gray greebling. I wish the upper part of its body and hands were black as well, but clearly not all the pieces are available in black at the moment. And I’m particularly impressed by plain yet so suitable custom stickers with number 5 on the drone’s head; a small touch that looks so great!
I’m reminded of the aesthetic of bosses in the Mega Man series with BobDeQuatre’s rad firefly drone. The flow of opaque white windscreen pieces from head to tail, as well as hot air balloon panels over the thrusters, complement the mechanical details and links to give a great overall living yet robotic feel.
I’ve been horribly remiss in not yet blogging my favorite month of the year, Droneuary. To amend for this oversight, feast your eyes on some of the best from the first half of the month.
Andrew Lee has been a one-man drone factory, churning out a fantastic variety of civilian drones in all shapes and sizes. This rogue medibot is a particular favorite.
Pascal has brought his clean aesthetic to the month, with a number of group shots of multiple drones. I particularly like the alien look of this batch, and the nicely layered background kicks the whole photo up another notch.
Last but certainly not least, Forest King kicked off the month with this atmospheric scene of a drone striketeam conquering a rampart.