Biomimicry, Bionics and Airplanes


Few months ago, I had to do a prasentation on this topic for school. It was quite hard to find information, so I decided to put all of my research on this blog.

Airplanes are not only the safest and fastest way of traveling, but it is also one of the favourite ways of travel. Tousands of people travel with them daily, wather because of the bussines or travel. They solved the problem of long distance traveling that was earlier on connected with long amount of time. Aircraft industry made travel easy as possible.

I will talk about:

  • air resistance
  • airplane wings
  • shape of an airplane
  • airplane surface
  • V-Form airplanes
  • Mass of an airplane
  • ‘Riblets’ Patches


Bionik and Biomimicry

We can define bionik as learning technology from the nature. Bionik is important part of our every day life, even when we sometimes can’t see it. Bionik is really often compared with biomimiry, however there are some major differences.

Biomimicry is design and production of materials, struktures and systems that imitate biological indentities and proceses.

We can explain the difference using an example of an airplane. When we talk about birds, airplanes and their surface, we can say it is pretty similar, because airplane engineers looked at flying birds and tried to learn from them and put their knowledge on the airplane. However when we talk about ‘Riblet’ Patchers, who were inspired by the shark skin, we can say it is biomimicry, because they used the exact same model on the airplanes as sharks use.

History of an aircraft

Three of the most important scientist that studied aircraft were Leonardo da Vinci, Otto Lilienthal and brothers Wright. Leonardo da Vinci was the first person who made drawing and structure of airplanes, however they haven’t worked and he could never fly them. Otto Lilienthal, German scientist, worked a lot with da Vincis drawing when making his first models of airplane. We can say that he was the first person who flew the airplane. Last but not least were brothers Wright. They were the creators of the airplanes we now know and use. They succesfully had the first powered, sustained and controlled airplane flight.

Leonardo da Vinci – Flying machine

Air resistance and streamline shape

When we look up in the sky and watch birds, we can see that they move almost effortlessly. It is because of their body is adapted on constant amount of flying. Birds have streamline shapes so that they don’t face air resistance powerful as they would with any other shape. Engineers used the shape of the birds as the inspiration when modeling airplanes.

On the second picture we can see air movements on two different shapes of the wing. We can clearly see that streamline shape of the wings, either on airplanes or birds, is much better version.


One of the impotant facts is also that birds have glossy surface that helps them go smoothly through the air, and we can say that most of the airplanes factories used same concept while making the airplanes fast as possible. That’s why most of the airplanes are almost perfectly polished. I will also talk about the kind of airplane that doesn’t use this prinicip little bit later.


One of the different kinds of airplanes are V-Form airplanes. They used birds in the stack as inspiration. When birds are in the stack they change they position so that they can travel great distances without exhausting. Only the first bird has to confront 100% of air resistance, while other only half. It is powerful concept that inspired engineers to make V-Form airplanes. Scientist discovered that this type of airplane would save somewhere between 15% to 20% of gas and reduce CO2 emissions. It would be perfect asset in the fight against the climate change.

‘Riblet’ Patches

The traditional method that was used while making airplanes surface was making them as smooth as possible, but in the last years scientists discovered that that method probably isn’t the best. As the scientists researched sharks fast movement through the water they discovered small, tooth-like riblets. As that was the reason why they could move so fast, engineers started to experiment on airplanes.

For the past few years, some of the Airbus jetliners have been fitted with small ‘riblet’ patches –  textured surfaces applied to the fuslages and wings that mimic the effect of sharkskin.  These experiments have proven that ‘riblets’ pathces are reasonable solution in long distance high speed flight.

Mass of an airplane

Last but not least, I wanted to talk about Mass of a plane compared to a mass of a bird. As you probably know, bones of birds are hollow. That kind of bone form reduces mass and helps birds fly higher, faster and longer without too much effort. It is easy for them to move and fly because they doesn’t have to carry their own weight.

Airplanes are huge and with all that additional weight, they have extremely huge amount of mass. Aircraft engineers tried to reduce most of the unneeded mass they could, so for example they made the airplanes from easiest sustainable materials they could find for this kind of device, and also they made the frame of a plane hollow. That kind of modeling reduced mass to relatively reasonable number.


In conclusion we can say that airplanes used birds and sharks as inspiration.

They used example of:

– Birds when making: wings, streamline shape, polished surface, amount of mass, V-Form

– Sharks when making: ‘Riblets’ patchers

Written by: Sara Nadzak

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