So far in the course, we have primarily focused on scientists and engineers drawing inspiration from nature to better understand the concept of lift and hopefully master the skill of flight. We have operated under the assumption that the principles from most of the studies we have seen thus far can only be applied to aerial flight. However, it is important to step back once in a while, allow our imaginations to flourish, and see if we cannot find some other application for what we learn by studying movement, propulsion, flight, etc. in nature.
The designers and engineers at Innespace Productions have undergone that exact process, and in recent years, built one of the more entertaining and interesting vehicles modeled after several of natures creatures: the Seabreacher. The Seabreacher is a hybrid between a boat and a submarine and even incorporates certain aspects of an airplane. It quintessentializes harmonizing modern technology and nature’s principles to create the most efficient and effective vehicles possible.
Upon first glance, it is apparent that the initial Seabreacher was modeled after a dolphin. The resemblance between its shape and that of the aquatic animal which inspired its creation is uncanny. But, the goal was not merely to construct a boat that looked natural to its environment. The goal was to build a vehicle that could replicate a dolphin’s movement in the water. After years of work, the engineers at Innespace Productions achieved their dream. The newest versions of the boat can travel upwards of 50 mph above water and 25 mph below the surface. It can maneuver through the water with incredible agility, dive beneath it, and even launch itself completely above the surface.
While the whole design is fascinating, perhaps the most relevant aspect of the Seabreacher to our course is how it dives. It dips below the water in the same way that an airplane takes off, with one major difference. Rather than generating positive lift and leaving the ground, the wings (which look more like flippers) actually generate negative lift. The same principles apply. However, instead of speeding through the air and being lifted upwards, the vehicle travels through the water, and, at the pilot’s discretion, dives below the surface. Essentially, the process is reversed and performed in a different medium (water rather than air.)
Breaching the water is not all that different from diving below it. In this case, it merely requires positive lift and greater thrust and momentum. Therefore, when the pilot wishes to breach the water, he dives below the water then heads for the surface at full throttle. He changes the position of the wings so that he can generate positive lift as opposed to negative lift, and the Seabreacher is propelled into the air.
Unfortunately, while Seabreacher does employ some of the same principles used in flight, it is incapable of actually flying. However, we know from our studies that making the transition from breaching to flying is completely possible. While doing so is possible, it is also extremely complex. It would require a restructure in the design of the vehicle: specifically the size of the wings to alter the wing loading, the shape of the wings, and also more thrust to help generate greater lift. While possible, the chances of the company actually making these adjustments is unlikely as they would decrease maneuverability and agility. Regardless, the Seabreacher remains a fascinating invention and a perfect example of using nature as inspiration and a model for practical applications.