Aircraft

Internet sleuths find evidence of Copterpack video tampering

Internet sleuths find evidence...
The Copterpack is a two-prop electric manned multirotor under development in Australia
The Copterpack is a two-prop electric manned multirotor under development in Australia
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The Copterpack is a two-prop electric manned multirotor under development in Australia
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The Copterpack is a two-prop electric manned multirotor under development in Australia

Last month, we reported on astonishing first flight footage from the Copterpack, an Australian electric personal flight device. Now, eagle-eyed pixel peepers have scrutinized the video and presented evidence that a tether wire has been edited out.

The video in question is amazing, and just 69 seconds long. You can check it out again below if you missed it:

CopterPack First Flight

It certainly had us going. In an age where David Mayman, Franky Zapata and Richard Browning routinely make a broad range of turbine-powered personal flight devices look easy and fun, nothing seemed particularly outrageous to us about the idea of an electric version.

YouTube user Parallax, though – or Nick Adams, a talented aerial filmmaker in the USA – started to look closer, prompted by friends in the R/C aircraft community that thought something fishy might be going on. Why wasn't there much dust flying around on takeoff? Were the Copterpack's movements in the air natural, or more like what you'd get if you dangled something from a tether?

Pushing sharpness and saturation on the video to better show up any editing shenanigans, Adams found solid evidence that the area above the Copterpack has been treated with the video equivalent of Photoshop's "clone stamp" tool. It's very difficult to spot in a still, but becomes glaringly obvious as you proceed through frame by frame. Check out the video below:

CopterPack 'flight' is FAKED - hanging by wire!

This kind of editing is reasonably sophisticated; the video has been carefully planned and shot so as to make each flight angle convincing and give the editors the best possible chance of removing the tether wire in post-production. In some shots, it's absolutely seamless. But enough artefacts remain to figure out what's going on.

We reached out to Copterpack after the video first launched, and heard nothing back. We have reached out again for comment on the Parallax video, but have again heard nothing back.

The Copterpack website has been edited to include the following paragraph: "The unique thing about CopterPack is that your body becomes part of the aircraft. CopterPack is currently in the early development stage. The recent tethered test of the prototype enabled evaluation of the flight dynamics and aircraft stabilisation." The Parallax video was published on June 28, and according to the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, this paragraph wasn't added until after that date.

Which leaves us to speculate. This whole thing doesn't have the whiff of a total hoax to us; whoever the Copterpack guy is, he's clearly put time and money into building the device in the video, which is definitely able to spin its props and vector thrust by angling them.

So what's really going on here? Perhaps we're looking at a device that's not yet powerful enough to lift its own weight with a suited and booted, regular-sized human on board. New Atlas reader and electric personal flight enthusiast "Chuck Mulder," who brought this video to our attention, sent us a breakdown of high-end components for a device like this, coming to the conclusion that the Copterpack might just be able to lift a person off the ground for a short burst of time if they weighed less than 53 kg (117 lb).

Perhaps the Copterpack is legit, and the tether rope is the kind of basic safety measure you'd be irresponsible not to take. Perhaps the team had to run a rope to avoid getting tangled up in red tape; Australia has somewhat of a reputation as a nanny state in this regard. Perhaps the creators edited the tether out because they thought it'd look silly dangling from a crane in a promo video. And they're right; this video would never have racked up its current tally of 1.4 million YouTube views with a visible rope in it.

The video drew in plenty of attention, that's for sure, and possibly some investors to go along with it. But whether the device works as shown or not, editing test flight footage in this way – and then only owning up to it when you've been caught out – is dishonest and bad business. We hope we have a chance to talk to the Copterpack team soon and straighten things out, because if the damn thing works, there are plenty of people waiting to get excited about it.

Source: Parallax (YouTube)

16 comments
16 comments
guzmanchinky
Interesting! I was wondering about the lack of sand/dust at takeoff and landing as well. They should have found some grass instead. Still, if it works I wonder how the battery power will last? It seems like he's not wearing a big battery pack? Or is it a Hydrogen fuel cell?
Grunchy
Hey whatever happened to Steorn Orbo, another fake device first seen on sites like Gizmag?
Supposedly when they went bankrupt the receiver seized all the Orbo devices and presumably could have sold them on eBay (I certainly would have paid up to $20 for one). They seem to have vanished completely?
akarp
Almost all product concepts are 'demoed' before they actually exist.
Adrian Akau
A follow up article would be great.
Greg Mooney
Fantastic work. Practice speaking by dropping all the "umm" and "uuh". It's most distracting and reduces your effectiveness.
joe46
still a bit dishonest/misleading, just say upfront in the video "this is a tethered flight test" and don't edit out the tether, just let it be seen, it may not look as impressive but at least people won't think you're full of $h1t and not trust you when you get found out !
WB
Highly suspect..when u gotta photoshop without telling people that normally screams SCAM. If I'd be an investor in this company I wouldn't walk away I would RUN. Just look at NIKOLA, the at company that faked stuff.
Komakai.Okane
It's really bad news if these video forensics have revealed a truthful conclusion that deception was intentionally engineered into this video. The fact that you've reached out to them for clarification and haven't heard a response is unfortunate and makes their guilt more obvious. If there's gross and willful malpractice at this stage then I would never trust their engineering either - what other shoddy practices are they employing?
Mstrpsintz
The Photoshopping is conclusive, but the physics of suspended objects is even more damning. The "pilot's" body hangs stably vertical from a point well above the field of view. If the propellers alone were holding him aloft his legs would be swinging back and forth with every slight shift in the blade angle.
Chuck Mulder
Yes, I was really excited & looking forward to flying a Copterpack along the NSW Murray river, until I did the numbers, that didn't stack up, unless i lose about 20kg in weight. I'm hoping we will see an affordable personal electric 'airpack' soon....but living in NSW (nanny state) where you can't legally ride an electric scooter on the road or path & with CASA's very restrictive drone rules it just makes it harder.