Building the LEGO® Icons Dune Atreides Royal Ornithopter: Bringing a fantastic craft to life

Building the LEGO® Icons Dune Atreides Royal Ornithopter: Bringing a fantastic craft to life

Spice harvesters rumbling across the vast deserts of Arrakis. Royal households in constant flux. Formidable, fearsome sandworms. Welcome to the Dune universe.

For the royal Atreides family, there’s only one mode of transport for soaring above the planet: the Ornithopter. Now, with the LEGO® Icons Dune Atreides Royal Ornithopter set, you can take control of this legendary craft.


Created by author Frank Herbert and visualized by the production team for the 2021 movie adaptation, the iconic Atreides Royal Ornithopter makes a stunning LEGO set.

But before it takes flight, we spoke to LEGO Designer Michael Psiaki – who worked closely with the film studio behind the movie – and who couldn’t be more excited to share the finished project.

“I’m a Dune fan. I’ve read the book five times and was blown away by Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 movie. It’s a great story, a great universe, great characters,” says Michael.

But it’s the Ornithopters that have always captivated him most.


“The way they’re described by Frank Herbert leaves it open to interpretation. Is it a bird? An insect? Some kind of jet? I’d always imagined what this craft could look like. I saw production stills of the prop Ornithopters for the movie and thought ‘wow, super cool’. They were much greater than what I’d pictured.”

Michael’s imagination kicked into gear the very next day.

“I started figuring out how I could build one with bricks. We developed it over a year, then got in touch with the studio.”

Michael worked closely with Patrice Vermette, the production designer on the movie adaptation.

“Patrice shared digital versions of the Ornithopter with me,” says Michael. “How the ramp would extend, the landing gear would come down, or the front doors would open. It was an incredible level of detail.”

So how did he feel about turning those cinematic plans into a LEGO set?

“A little overwhelmed. I wasn’t at all confident it was possible. The main thing I wanted to replicate was the way the wings fold out and flap. It was a daunting task.”

He set about working out how to get the mechanism to work, but he knew that it would be one of the greatest challenges he’d faced in his eleven years as a LEGO designer.

“Every time you want to make an iteration, you have to build it eight times to figure out if it works. It was a real team effort.”

After much trial and error, Michael and his team of course succeeded. With a full 31" (79 cm) wingspan, deployable landing gear and opening cockpit, the LEGO Icons Dune Atreides Royal Ornithopter is a spectacular addition to any builder’s collection.


Aside from the wings – the largest on any LEGO set – another challenge was designing the cockpit to be accurate but also to allow two minifigures to sit inside it.

To do this, Michael and his team went back to the drawing board.

“At first, I just couldn’t see how to do the cockpit as in the movie it’s incredibly angular. So, I played around with it a lot. I’m thrilled with the way that it all came together.”

When the cockpit was completed, Michael was faced with his next challenge: who would get to sit in it.

The Dune Atreides Royal Ornithopter set comes complete with eight minifigures, including Paul Atreides, Chani, Lady Jessica and more. But arriving at this shortlist from the many characters available wasn’t easy.

“We talked about what makes sense, and with Legendary (the production company) about who they wanted. We thought this is the LEGO Dune set. This is our one shot. Who do we include? Seven of them interact with the craft and technically the Baron doesn’t. But talking about it, everyone said, ‘You’ve got to have the Baron!’ So that’s where we got this line-up of eight characters.”


Michael wanted to create not only a true representation of the epic aircraft but also an intricate and fulfilling build. It had to be fun!

“I think the only way you can understand how it works is by building it,” he says. “The different levers and linkages hidden inside the chassis. People will love building it!”

Now, it’s time for Michael and his teammates to send their version of the legendary Ornithopter out into the universe just in time for the sequel.

Looking for more?

Check out the Adults Welcome homepage to see our collection of adult-focused sets and articles!