About Titanoboa: The Machine

Titanoboa’s Design Specifications:

  • Approximately 1700 lbs (775 kg) 50 ft (15 m) long,  2 ft (60 cm) diameter
  • 5 different modes of motion
  • 34 high strength aluminum vertebrae
  • Dynamic internal lighting
  • Scalable Lithium polymer battery system
  • 10hp continuous, 25hp peak power
  • Controllable by rider or remotely
  • Multiple Arduino Mega micro controllers
  • 60 proportional hydraulic cylinders
  • Animated eyes and Jaws





During concertina type motion, Titanoboa will fold like an accordion and lurch forwards.  The front section will rely on the rear folded section’s frictional force to propel itself forward. This type of motion will be used largely for striking or sudden movements.


“Lateral undulation [or serpentine motion] is the sole mode of aquatic locomotion, and the most common mode of terrestrial snake locomotion. In this mode, the body of the snake alternately flexes to the left and right, resulting in a series of rearward-moving ‘waves’.”  On land this type of motion will consist of a wave of constant amplitude travelling through the snake’s body.  In order to make serpentine motion more efficient, snakes typically lift the areas parallel to the direction of motion putting more pressure on areas providing propulsion.  This practice of sinus lifting will be instrumental in attaining target mechanical efficiencies close to 30%.

“When swimming, serpentine motion is used but the waves become larger as they move down the snake’s body, and the wave travels backwards faster than the snake moves forwards. Thrust is generated by pushing their body against the water, resulting in the observed slip.”


“Side Winding is a modified form of lateral undulation in which all of the body segments oriented in one direction remain in contact with the ground, while the other segments are lifted up, resulting in a peculiar “rolling” motion.  This mode of locomotion overcomes the slippery nature of sand or mud by pushing off with only static portions on the body, thereby minimizing slipping.  The static nature of the contact points can be shown from the tracks of a side winding snake, which show each belly scale imprint, without any smearing. This mode of locomotion has very low [energy] cost, less than ?of the cost for a lizard or snake to move the same distance” via serpentine motion.


Rectilinear or inchworm locomotion is the slowest mode of snake locomotion, and is also the only one in which the snake does not need to bend its body laterally, though it may do so when turning. In this mode, the belly scales are lifted and pulled forward before being placed down and the body pulled over them. Waves of movement and stasis pass posteriorly, resulting in a series of ripples in the skin.

see  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake#Lateral_undulation for more info on snake motion, or check out this BBC clip.



Proto Labs recently produced 100 of these super slick belly scales designed by Hugh Patterson that will help Titanoboa slide on all terrain!  Read more here . The machine also has a small roller on each vertebrae to enhance frictional anisotropy.



Dorsal scales on back of live snake.  These scales may be composed of translucent material to highlight internal lighting.  Regardless of transparency of scales, internal lighting will shine through cracks in the beast’s armor.  Scale design and manufacturing is ongoing.