There’s no easy way to look at a digitally rendered robot chicken/transformer mashup and take it seriously as a business venture. It gets even more difficult when you watch the company’s pitch video, which features a voice-over poem packed with gems like, “It’s easy to escape our problems, but we think that’s premature; Because greener grass … also comes with its own manure.”
To their credit, the Phractyl does have some novel features. Like the Bell V-22 Osprey, the wings and props tilt up to give it helicopter-y vertical lift and pivot forward to fly like an airplane. It also looks like ED-209 from the Robocop movies, and I’d buy that for a dollar.
Despite the clever (?) use of tilt-rotor tech and — uh, rhymes — the Phractyl promo video also talks about the ways an African-built eVTOL (or, in this case, NVTOL, for “nearly vertical take-off/landing”) could benefit Africa. They talk about manufacturing jobs, training kids in trades, combating poachers, and delivering medicine and supplies into the bush, where a conventional aircraft would have more difficulty than … whatever you’d call this thing. Not a UFO, as that’s taken.
So, maybe it could work, but a quick glance at it makes me think otherwise. The treaded “feet” would probably be heavy and awkward when “skis” would do. The motors and stabilizers needed for this thing to walk would have to be thoroughly engineered. Someone would have to be secure enough in themselves to fly a big robot parakeet. That sort of thing.
That’s just me, though — maybe I’m just old and cranky and this thing’s legit? You guys are pretty smart, so check out the video below, then let us know if you think these guys are serious in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
Phractyl — Definitely Not a Scam, Probably
“We are PHRACTYL, a South African startup company on a quest to bring sustainable mobility to Africa. We are currently working on the development of a personal aerial vehicle. It would be extremely cool to be able to travel around in a clean energy “flying car”, but the project is also aimed at solving many other critical transportation challenges. This is especially relevant in the African context, where the land-based transport infrastructure is not well developed.”
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