What advantages do vehicles modeled after ants, spiders, centipedes, squids, etc offer over conventional land, sea and air vehicles?

EDIT: This question does not relate to human-shaped bipedal robots. Those are obviously impractical due to the square-cube law. Vehicles with multiple limbs have been seriously advanced for climbing and space exploration. What other circumstances would justify this design?

  • $\begingroup$ This seems pretty broad. Ants and cephalopods have very different morphologies. Perhaps restrict the scope by restricting to a particular morphology in a particular context. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Mar 28, 2017 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ The duplicate question, isn't focused on just human-shaped bipedal robots. While most of the answers do seem to focus on the bipedal modal and mecha vs tanks, they do mention various features that may be of interest. have a read through all the answers for all the hidden gems of wisdom that may help you. if you still think your question is not a duplicate, can you please specify what particular aspect is not covered and that you would like answered here? $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2017 at 18:50
  • $\begingroup$ I also think your question is currently too board as you are covering all vehicles types and are not focussing on a use (civilian/ mining/ military/ exploration) and a particular environment (surface water/ submarine/ land/ air/ space). each of those has different pros and cons that would influence the design of a vehicle. trying to find one blanket answer to everything is going to be a bit of a tough call :) $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2017 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ @EveryBitHelps: The duplicate offers no relevant answers. How many other questions would be needed? What are the practical alternatives to conventional "boxes with engines and tools" school of vehicle designs? $\endgroup$
    – Anonymous
    Mar 28, 2017 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ well, I can't add an answer with a summary so i'll just give you locations of interesting/relevant info. both pros and cons of box and box alternative designs. 1st answer - user6511, para 3, 11, 16. 2nd answer - smithkm para 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 16 (pretty much entire answer is useful). 3rd answer - Erik para 1, 5, 7, 10. all of answer 4 - Dan Smolinkse. etc etc....continued $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2017 at 20:09

2 Answers 2


Potential Advantages

  • Ability to traverse rough terrain. Tracked or wheeled vehicles aren't capable of crossing some divides. Larger legged vehicles could climb over walls as well.
  • Squid type pump propulsion could be very stealthy.
  • Multi-legged ant- or spider-like vehicles could potentially be used as 'forklifts' in rough terrain, for construction, mining, or forestry. Their ability to accelerate in any direction from a stop, and climb over obstacles would give them some advantages over tracked vehicles. Taken to the next step, this could be useful for space exploration.
  • Multi-legged vehicles that can climb could be useful for vertical construction, although its hard to see exactly how they'd be more useful than a crane. Taken to the next step, this could be useful for digging vertical bores into ice planets like Europa.


  • Flying-insect based aircraft won't work in Earth's atmosphere when scaled up. Flapping wings don't provide enough lift.
  • Squid are optimized for traveling underwater, not on the surface. It takes more power to travel on the surface, and the squid's water jet propulsion probably can't provide enough power. I assume that there is no good reason for merchant vessels to be submarines, so most ships will still travel on the surface.
  • Wheeled vehicles will move faster than anything with legs.
  • As long as we humans are building roads, wheeled vehicles will be able to use their speed.
  • As always, complexity is a bad thing. The complex joints of legs will always be harder to build or maintain than a wheeled or tracked vehicle.

These machines are cool, but also very expensive. The primary benefit is of course the same benefit that humans and other legged creatures have over tanks -- They can easily maneuver over rugged terrain that treads could not be able to deal with. That being said, in a world with aircraft (Although b.Lorenz points out not all celestial bodies have an atmosphere capable of supporting aircraft), there is no real reason to go with n-pedal tanks.

If you really are interested though in such a device, I suggest you look at Boston Dynamics new Hybrid robot, and compare it to some of their previous inventions like the Big Dog. By using a creature with knees, but using wheels instead of feet, the hybrid has the advantages of a bipedal locomotion, while eschewing the complexity of multi-jointed ankles.

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe they could be used on airless celestial bodies, where planes and helicopters are no option. $\endgroup$
    – b.Lorenz
    Mar 28, 2017 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ On the "down side" of legged vehicles, especially armored combat vehicles, the legs will need to be thick relative to the body size (volume) because of the increased mass. That complicates any "hip" or "knee/elbow" joints in the legs, and also increases the power requirements for "flexing" the joints. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2017 at 17:16

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