This subject specifically, is really interesting to think about. In the asteroid belt, asteroids contain precious resources that humans will need. Some are rocky, some are metallic, but the majority of asteroids are carbon rich, and contain a lot of water. Water is the gold of space. Everything else is secondary. If we have water we can not only begin to use photosynthesis for plants and food, but also we can create air, and rocket fuel as well. This is huge for space travel, and human's future in space.
With that being said, prospecting asteroids for mining is a huge part in developing infrastructure in the asteroid belt. When beginning to design these drones, they needed to be both compact, efficient, and very dynamic. There are a few specific requirements going into this concept phase: Most important of the constraints is that this needs to be efficient, as it will be launched from earth and travel into the asteroid belt. It would also need to distribute multiple drones that could seek out and latch onto different asteroids to investigate if the particular asteroid is worth speculating for future mining.
This lead into a dual design challenge. One that A) considers the entire capsule as a design, and then B) the consideration of the cartridges/drones, that this thing would disperse. The drones must send communications back to the main pod, the drones must be able to control their own flight, latching and photographing asteroids, drilling and collecting samples, and carrying small amounts of material back to the main pod.
My main inspirations for this mutative process were considering how flowers blossom from a very tight cylindrical like geometry, to a very light and sprawling layout. The way this translates mechanically, is that the main pod separates into two different sections. One that releases the cartridges of drones, the other that blossoms into the Iris receiver.
The drones themselves are really the primary part of the design, but it required the design of a capsule that could pack efficiently. Looking at these drones as having to fly, latch, and transport samples, it felt appropriate to consider bees, hummingbirds, and pollen as precedents for how nature deals with transporting material from one place to another.
I don't see the overall capsule (IRIS) changing much, but I am open to suggestions for ways to iterate these bee drones (STINGERS). These are almost little transformers that just get flung into the asteroid belt and are remotely or autonomously controlled.
After the mutative process, which ultimately gives me some type of direction to move forward with; I began to iterate a few concepts that may lend themselves to packing either more efficiently than an other. Once again, these were iterations of the cartridges, not the Iris capsule.
This is also the important step of infusing real world inspirations with functional mechanical requirements: Solar panels, Mechanical arms, thrusting capabilities, communication, sample extraction, etc. Using different inspirations for different functional needs is the real trick and being able to abstract this natural form into a mechanical robot can be a real challenge. The mutative process (1) and the iterative process (2) are both equally important for feedback and visual library exchange to occur, or I am limited by my own, with no direction forward. I feel that the more feedback, the richer the output will become.
Once I get the flea bumped up to a rather presentable concept. I started to model. Modeling these things is often a challenge because concepts have to turn into reality. It is easy to show legs that unfold and tuck up into the body when I draw it, but then I actually have to make that happen. I look at this step as a crucial step in the design because it either can make or break a concept. Although I haven't had any that have not worked, I am sure it is possible and happens more times than not when considering transforming elements.
I am really pleased with this progression. Granted, I spent a little more time in the concept and mutative stage, this one turned out really cool. To clarify, what is rendered above is only the Stinger drone. The Iris capsule would load 6 of these guys and deploy them into the asteroid belt. There, they would be robotic ally controlled by humans to steer towards asteroids with two main Ion drives, and multiple directional control thrusters. Once latched onto the asteroid, this thing can drill, dig, take pictures, and other data to send back data to the Iris pod. The pod will determine if a sample needs collected, or weather or not to disengage and find another asteroid. Once again, this is a building block to finding critical resources within the inner solar system that will be beneficial for human life to sustain itself.