Ornithopters fly by allowing air to pass by their wings rapidly.

Since shields are designed to stop high velocity impacts, how can an ornithopter fly while shielded?

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  • It is difficult to see from the picture, but maybe the shields don't cover the wings? Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 11:05

1 Answer 1


Shields in Dune surround the object like a semi-permeable skin. The generators seems smart enough (or possibly it's just an effect that they've harnessed) to follow the object that's being shielded and to move with it. Note that Paul and Duncan are perfectly able to move fast enough within their own shields to hit their opponent with sufficient speed that their opponent's shield stops them.

Both individuals are perfectly well able to speak and breathe, so we can assume that shields also allow air to pass through relatively freely, notwithstanding that in the books the air inside the shields is described as growing stale from

the demands on it that the slow interchange along barrier edges could not replenish...

It follows that shield simply moves with the ornithoper's wings. Depending on how quickly the air can diffuse, it's either the wing itself disrupting the air or the shield-coated wing disrupting the air. Both are perfectly feasible.

  • 4
    Air doesn't pass freely in the books. Near the start of Dune, when Paul is fighting Gurney there's a quote: "The air within their shield bubbles grew stale from the demands on it that the slow interchange along barrier edges could not replenish." I take this to mean diffusion through the shield, but not bulk-flow. Doesn't necessarily mean that a shaped field couldn't still act as a wing like in the ornithopters, which are more dragonfly-like than aeroplane wing in how they function it would seem.
    – bob1
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 20:04
  • 1
    @bob1 - An excellent find. See edit...
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 20:07
  • I'm sorry, but your explanation doesn't work. For a plane to move, it must generate thrust of some sort, and if the shield surrounds the ornithopter, any thrust generated cannot pass through the shield; hence, zero net thrust. Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 11:04
  • 2
    @KlausÆ.Mogensen - Think of the shield as a semi-permeable skin for the wings. It moves with the wings. They don't sit inside it like a bubble.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 11:15

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