Lockheed Martin UGV-1: Sean Peterson
Deep in the heart of Area 51 lurks an experimental vehicle from Lockheed Martin. Known internally as the Lockheed Martin UGV-1 or Unmanned Ground Vehicle its purpose is to test new propulsion, stealth, and classified technology. With much of this vehicle shrouded in mystery, we can only speculate based on the leaked footage about its true purpose. When asked about the price the Pentagon listed the vehicle under the “Black Budget” which keeps the price classified from the public.
This vehicle was developed entirely in Blender (a 3D design software) with most of it blocked within 8 hours. Working in 3D was essential for something that is so sculptural in order to have the design work from any angle. While no sketch was used, an inspiration board of legendary Lockheed Martin planes was on screen to reference their cutting-edge and honest design language. One thing Sean wanted to maintain was an edge around the central body that lines up with the front and rear fenders. This edge serves two-fold: to suggest the vehicle has stealth technology which stealth planes use to minimize radar waves and to keep the car visually in harmony the same way a 1952 Alfa Romeo Disco Volante uses its chrome trim to draw your eye around the vehicle. This line creates harmony in what may otherwise be chaos.
Surprisingly the details took just as long as blocking in the whole car. Special attention was paid to various aircraft graphics, indicators, bolts, material choices, etc. While these things were all third-read details, they go a long way to making such an extraordinary vehicle feel real. Things like scratched paint, tire grime, scuffs on composite materials all help the viewer believe that this thing is tested frequently and is subject to intense mechanical stress.
The next environment played a large role in setting the mood for how the vehicle would be perceived. Sean wanted to set the car in Area 51 to suggest the vehicle had some exotic or perhaps even alien technology. The materials in the environment are a mix of human and exotic materials with concrete and an unknown metal-like surface for the pillars that hold up the hangar. This constant interplay between the familiar and unknown is what I think draws people in as well as leaves the viewer unsettled.
Even the lightning was considered with lots of desaturated greens and blues to make the environment feel clinical but also unnatural. This lighting scheme drew inspiration from the color grading in the Matrix.
The robotic arm in the animation was a unique challenge having to look as exotic as the car and animate to perform maintenance on the advanced propulsion systems. Special software plug-ins were used to craft the robotic arm observed from the entertainment industry.
The animation itself was carefully choreographed to set the mood and highlight some of the vehicle’s unique features. The camera glitch and lens distortion in the opening scene draw the viewer in by suggesting this might be some leaked security footage from Area 51 that we aren’t supposed to see. Next, the music plays starts off with a pure beautiful voice before breaking down into a cyberpunk instrumental which Sean feels blends well with Lockheed Martin’s design ethos of purity meets bleeding-edge engineering.
Throughout the project, Sean was aware that this exotic aesthetic had a danger of being perceived as pure fantasy. To solve this he took inspiration from Christopher Nolan’s films and visually grounded the design with some familiar-looking details to offset the fantastical premise.
Sean Peterson has been a professional automotive designer for the last 5 years and he hopes to pass on some of the knowledge to you. If you want to learn more about how to do projects like this, Sean teaches people around the world through Lumen Design Academy. Regardless of your skillset, he can get you up to speed so you can start modeling and designing like a pro.