A friendly warning to DroneDJ readers: It is not clear whether an African startup’s proposal to build a passenger plane that looks and flies like a bird (it bears a fleeting resemblance to Transformer toys kids love) is mind-boggling in its vision and ambition, or an elaborate gag to see how many people will be made to believe the mind-blowing company really does measure up. Either way, the almost vertical take-off and landing electric vehicle Phractyl Macrobat (eNVTOL – no kidding) is worth a visit.
Phractyl’s Macrobat eNVTOL is unlike anything you’ve seen before, at least from this side of a cartoon or psychotropic drug experiment. The aircraft rests on legs with tractor-shaped legs that allow it to roll during take-off and landing. This non-optional detail is due to the “almost” in the eNVTOL description of the machine. During these phases, the body, wing and tail of the aircraft move from their horizontal position at rest to the sky, allowing the two propellers to raise or lower it to the ground. As the angle of this one is limited in order to avoid planting the tail in the runway, the machine takes off “almost” vertically while rolling a little to obtain speed.
Still, Phractyl says the runoff action is minimal, due to the Macrobat design for improved aerodynamics compared to other non-eVTOL vehicles.
“Most airplane wings can only lift after showing some speed gains,” says the company’s website – whose “About” page is entirely in verse.
The innovative Macrobat wing is able to generate lift at low speed, thus ensuring safe and controlled landings, regardless of the condition of the propulsion system … -Off and Landing (eNVTOL) offers enviable performance, even on a rough terrain.
Despite the abundance of poetic information on the site, it’s not entirely clear what the deal is behind Phractyl – which stands for PHrontier for Agile Complex Technology sYstem evolution (a detail that naturally increases the reader’s suspicion that the whole project is a gag).
If one were skeptical, the whole project might come across as a grotesque farce seeking to entice drone and urban air mobility enthusiasts with an incredibly futuristic bird-plane that just might blow up its slender legs upon landing, or swing under the different and unpredictable weight distributions of each individual landing.
Yet if one took at face value the information provided by the site – even if it was a face with its tongue stuck in the cheek – then it is fair to describe the startup as a uniquely African company. by African engineers seeking to create future aircraft that respond in particular to African opportunities and limitations.
These involve an abundance of room to fly, but a lot of inhospitable terrain on takeoff and landing (hence the approach of perched birds). Areas with developed infrastructure tend to have heavy land, rail and air passenger traffic. The Phractyl Macrobat eNVTOL is therefore designed to transport a single person or a single cargo, manually or remotely. It is described as being able to fly up to 122 mph for a distance of up to 93 miles, carrying a maximum payload of 330 lbs.
Phractyl plans to further develop the eNTVOL craft primarily for personal transportation, but will make it adaptable to uses such as recreational flights, medical deliveries, first aid services, cargo missions, infrastructure inspections. and possibly the spraying of crops. He says it could also increase passenger capacity for air taxi operations – or it can, unless it’s all a hoax.
To get a feel for Phractyl’s cultural vibe and penchant for acrobatic communications, the video linked below – jazz-driven and hosted by Leggo characters in the third minute, when Macrobat star eNVTOL ultimately appeared – is quite informative. The same goes for the excellent article by New Atlas, who manages to take the prospect as seriously as Phractyl allows, but without losing any of the playfulness of the whole.
It is also worth checking out Phractyle site for impassive product descriptions like: “The Macrobat can work like an airplane or like a drone1“followed by the disgusting footnote,” Since this is a family-friendly website, this is the last time the ‘d’ word will be used. We will now refer to unmanned aircraft as remotely piloted aircraft.
Are they serious? It would be pretty cool if they were. Are. East.