In all our coverage of air taxis that include wing designs, propulsion technologies, flight endurance, top speeds, we have surely not come across something so radical as this intriguing piece called PHRACTYL. If this appears to you like a bird that has mistakenly grown a pair of propellers at first glance, you are right on spot.
While birds have been the source of inspiration for human flight, after the success of the Wright Brothers, the flat wide wings have become a standard in aviation and technological advancements have happened on getting more lift from these wings. However, the engineers at PHRACTYL have dumped this conventional wisdom for a radically unique design that resembles a bird’s wing. But that’s not where they have stopped. The tail and the landing gear are no different, giving the aircraft the appearance of a bird.
Copying concepts from nature might be straightforward, but the team at the PHRontier for Agile Complex Technology sYstem evoLution (PHRACTYL) is geared up to manufacture working prototypes of this as well. Their aim is to build a mean, green, and clean flying machine using electric propulsion. However, they recognize that battery technology still has a long way to go before it can power these flights in their current format and therefore went about tinkering with the aerodynamic design of the craft till they came up with a radically new one; they call the Macrobat.
When it comes to taking off, the Macrobat will use its bird legs like landing gear to lift the passenger pod up and then tilt it backward to create a suitable angle for its differently shaped wings. The propulsion system will then kick in and create the necessary lift to make it airborne. The lift-off won’t be straight up, like other air taxis routinely do, which is why the team has coined a new phrase, Near Vertical Take-Off and Landing (NVTOL).
Once sufficiently up in the air, the landing gear will retract to reduce the drag and the Macrobat will fly like any other plane. According to its website, the team claims that with a 330 pound (150 kg) payload, the Macrobat will have a 93-mile (150 km) with a top speed of 111 miles an hour (180 kph).
PHRACTYL claims that its unique landing gear with tracks makes the Macrobat compatible for landing in rough terrain too. However, this also means that the landing has to be attempted at a very low speed, failing to do so would result in toppling the aircraft over because of its momentum.
The company is not very rigid on the arrangement of the propulsion system and is working on how it could be deployed, as single units on each wing or as a series. It is clear that the wing is more interesting than it looks, but since the intellectual property is not protected by a patent, the company isn’t revealing much.
As with other air taxis, the Macrobat is designed to be piloted by a human either in the pod or remotely off the ground. PHRACTYL also claims that its aircraft will be built of sustainable material in a modular fashion to make it easy to replace spares.
With so much potential, we can’t really wait to see more updates on the Macrobat and will bring you more as they come along.