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.