_This was written first as a practice college application essay for english class in the Spring of junior year. That Fall, I edited it for use as my actual college application essay. Later the same year, I submited it to our school’s writing contest; it won first place in the Non-fiction category._
Against a serene chartreuse sky, a flurry of small, winged creatures darts, flashing in brilliant hues of amaranth, amber, amethyst, crimson, sapphire, and viridian. Below the energetic dragonlings, in a dim, damp cave a humongous, ancient dragon slumbers upon its mountain of glinting treasure and moldering bones.
I have always admired dragons: powerful, flying demigods. They can be the villains or the heroes, the rulers or the pets, the minions of Hell or the servants of Heaven; it all depends on the mind creating them.
My admiration and fascination have led to a desire to create real dragons, to give the dreamy shadows physical incarnations, to make draconic creatures of flesh and bone or metal and silicon rather than ink and paper.
To breed dragons of blood and bone, one would probably start with aspects of currently existing animals rather than from scratch, as the latter is further beyond our current capabilities than the former. A dragon would probably require genetic contributions from at least three animals: from cats, their agility and intelligence; from bats, their wings; from reptiles, their scales. This complexity of genetic manipulation still falls out of bio-engineering’s current reach, which mainly consists of augmenting existing traits; granting corn stalks locomotion requires more skill than amplifying the natural production of sugars to make the corn produced sweeter.
As my affinity lies more with physics and electronics than biology, I better understand and have more fully considered the course to a modern, mechanical draconic incarnation: a soaring ornithopter with the most advanced artificial intelligence lurking in its cranium.
A dragon who flies like an airplane or helicopter would be distinctly different from the flapping, bat-like creatures of myth; a modern dragon will utilize the motion of an ornithopter. The first dragonlings would be made on a scale similar to the fire lizards of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern; thus, they would be of a manageable size and inexpensive to modify and redesign, compared to a model to the scale of the treasure-hoarders of myth.
The very first dragonlings would be concerned with mastering autonomous flight. Few, if any, tales portray the dragon as willingly subservient; a robotic dragonling would be equally determined to gain its freedom. Remote-controlled ornithopters have been developed. However, an autonomous ornithopter has greater challenges. It must not only be able to sense its environment, but react to and navigate through it. This would be the greatest concern for the first dragonlings.
After they grew to be able, independent fliers, dragonlings would be able to develop in multiple directions: as eyes in places humans cannot go, as companions, as a network of air quality surveillance. To serve as eyes, dragonlings would grow smaller, increase their ability to navigate tight spaces, and ability to work with a team of humans who need the information they are gathering. To become companions, they would grow colorful, become adept at vocal communication, and relaying messages to other dragonlings. A draconic air quality network would be a way for wild dragons to be useful; by communicating with each other, a dispersed group of dragons would be able to track the sources and spread of various pollutants, possibly helping determine if those pollutants are causing any signifigant problems.
Dragons could be immensely useful, and also beautiful to watch. I hope to one day watch a flight of dragonlings cavorting in the sky, gracefully dancing with one another.