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Startup's Macrobat Plane Lands on Bird Legs

It's unsettling. Also, a flying saucer in every garage by 2040 and Skydrate solves pilot problems with "in-flight bladder relief."

Zeva Wants a Flying Saucer in Every Garage by 2040

ZEVA Aero Electric has the answer to modern aircraft: a flying saucer.

The new aircraft concept is small enough to land in a parking space after flying over roadblocks and traffic. It's just going to be a logistical nightmare up there when all of these are off the ground. Maybe that's why the Jetsons are in the clouds — everything below them is a post-apocalyptic nightmare, or just really congested.

ZEVA's flying saucer is called the Zero. It's an electric personal aircraft in a long line of eVTOL concepts vying for a piece of the urban air mobility market. 

Zero is designed to serve the first responder market first, with a 50-mile range, a top speed of 160 mph and a 200-pound payload. 

The company has a full-scale working prototype currently conducting test flights, but if you see how the passenger rides in the vessel, it doesn't look comfy. The passenger kind of stands with their head looking out the window; there’s not a lot of room. Then, when it transitions after takeoff, the passenger is prone. It might not be comfortable, but it would give first responders a good lay of the land before touching down. 

Based in Tacoma, Washington, the company has raised about $150,000 via investment platform Start Engine, and the company has some aggressive goals. 

Zero will retail for $250,000, which isn't bad when you consider that ambulances start around $300,000. However, those carry entire teams and medical supplies, and can transport patients. Still, they want to sell 500 vehicles by 2025, putting revenue at $125 million if everything comes together. 

They want Zero to be fully autonomous, so anyone can fly in it — even without a pilot's license — and project a ZEVA in every garage by 2040.

One idea from this project that I really like is the SkyDock. While Zero is small enough and agile enough to park in a traditional parking spot, ZEVA's SkyDock can mount a dock to the side of a building, dock the aircraft right on the structure, and enter the office through the SkyDock doors. Forget the hustle from the parking lot and just simply park your flying saucer on your SkyDock mounted on the side of your office building. 

Air Force Tests Skydrate 'In-Flight Relief' System

Sometimes you hear about an innovative new product, and rather than appreciate it, you think, "we haven't figured that out yet?"

Omni Defense Technologies has developed Skydrate, a new "in-flight bladder relief" product that the Air Force is now testing to make it easier on pilots when they've got to go. 

The Skydrate system for men uses a device that looks like an athletic cup. A urethane cup is attached to a hose that leads to a control unit. The control unit pumps the urine from the cup to a collection bag outside the flight suit, all hands-free. It's automated bladder relief, although the pilot does have to activate the system. The control unit is battery-operated, and OMNI says the unit has enough juice for 12 urinations per charge. 

The female system is the same, except it swaps the cup for an inflatable pad and is truly automated. The pad inflates to create a seal against the body and prevent leaks and has a urine sensor that knows when you go and automatically activates the control unit. 

Both the male and female systems require specific underwear, which keeps them comfortably held into place throughout the mission. 

According to Task & Purpose, Skydrate could be quite the improvement. Pilots previously had to unzip their flight suits, slide forward, and pee into a plastic bag called a piddle pack, which was particularly difficult for women. The piddle packs were so bad that many women resorted to "tactical dehydration" so they wouldn't have to urinate during flights, which caused a host of other issues. 

How haven't we figured this out yet? 

Phractyl's Macrobat Lands on Bird Legs

Phractyl is a new startup out of South Africa building a plane that looks like a bird and is named after a mammal.

Phractyl has introduced the Macrobat personal aerial vehicle, and you may find the way it lands innovative, if not unsettling. 

The Macrobat reminds me of Airbus' work with the AlbatrossOne wing concept that was inspired by natural bird movement. This time, instead of wings inspired by birds, they're looking at the entire body, from retractable legs to a unique ability to lift off. 

The project started as a way to address Africa's land-based infrastructure issues that the company describes as "not great." Specifically, they needed a better way to reach otherwise off-the-grid areas. In a global pandemic, it's a problem when vaccines, medical supplies and medical personnel can't easily access parts of the population. 

Now, with this altruistic endeavor in mind, they came up with an all-electric concept that can generate lift at low speed, which means more controlled landings. 

They call it an eNVTOL, or electric near-vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. It doesn't need to transition from helicopter to plane; it tilts and can land and take off from uneven terrain onto a pair of retractable tracked legs.

The Macrobat is a single-seat aircraft that can be operated by an onboard pilot or remotely as a drone. It has a 93-mile range, 330-pound payload and a top speed of about 112 mph. According to the company, Macrobat could serve the light sports aircraft market with a long-term opportunity as an air taxi. 

One application that I didn't see coming? Crop dusting. But when you're trying to get a product to market, you make it do everything. 

The company recently tested a scaled prototype of the wing. While the renderings show two large-diameter propellers as the propulsion concept, Phractyl is also looking into a distributed array of smaller propulsion elements. Multiple small elements offer redundancy without sacrificing aerodynamics. The company hopes to build a scale model Macrobat prototype for flight testing soon. 

If anything, just check out the intro video. It's nearly six minutes long, and the entire thing is a poem, with some rather creative use of Lego minifigs and articulated mannequins.

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