The Macrobat was specifically designed with African conditions in mind, but it remains to be seen whether it will ever be built. Although air taxis, like cars, bicycles and aeroplanes, will certainly become uniform in the future, the new form of transport, which is still only just beginning to spread its wings, is still quite a favourite with creative designers, who are not holding back when it comes to brainstorming: in recent years, we have seen air taxis with 18 rotors positioned like a halo above the cockpit, eVTOLs with folding wings and even something resembling a flying saucer. But the concept from South African start-up Phractyl stands out even from this diverse field.
Dubbed Macrobat, the one-person eVTOL, which exists only on paper so far, has wings that break at the engines and legs that replace the wheels, making it more like a bird than an aeroplane. The concept is not an end in itself: the designers say that the robotic legs, which bend in several places, are a reflection of the conditions in Africa: they allow the Macrobat to take off and land in places where there is no infrastructure, which means that the plane could be called an air taxi.
Phractyl is very optimistic about the eVTOL’s capabilities: according to their website, the Macrobat will be able to travel up to 150 kilometres at a time, with a top speed of 180 km/h. The vehicle has a payload capacity of up to 150 kilograms and can be controlled remotely, and its designers say it can be used for transport, air rescue and agricultural tasks in addition to travel.
As mentioned in New Atlas, there are some issues with the concept, for example, the plans seem to suggest that the pilot will not be able to see the ground at all during take-off and landing due to the cockpit swivelling upwards, which will probably be solved by cameras. Creating the robotic feet itself is likely to be a much more difficult task than if the machine were equipped with wheels or feet, and could make the vehicle unstable, which will also need to be addressed.
The Macrobat designers will have time to work on these problems, as they are currently only at the design stage for the wings and the electric propulsion system, and by their own admission it will take years to complete the Macrobat. Phractyl is raising money for the project on Patreon, so if anyone sees the potential in the unconventional air taxi, they can support the idea, but it doesn’t look promising for the future of the Macrobat that so far a total of five people have decided to invest money in the project.