A new eVTOL aircraft designed with farmers in mind has successfully performed its first piloted test flights. Ryse Aero Technologies, an Ohio-based company developing advanced air mobility solutions for the agricultural community, says its single-seat Recon eVTOL aircraft has made multiple piloted flights at its Cincinnati facility since June 27.
The piloted test flights “were a monumental step forward in accomplishing our mission, which is to provide an accessible aircraft to people with a purpose and make flight accessible to all,” said Ryse CEO Mick Kowitz, who added that the missions have proven “that this vehicle is reliable, stable, and enjoyable, but most importantly, it’s safe.”
While most eVTOL makers are focused on urban air mobility solutions (such as air taxis) and military applications, Ryse is developing its Recon eVTOL aircraft for a different demographic of customers: farmers and ranchers.
The small, simple aircraft could make it easier for people who maintain crops or livestock over large farms and fields to quickly access hard-to-reach places. Not only would it allow agricultural customers to cover more ground in less time, but it also reduces the risk of soil impaction and other ground damage caused by vehicles on land. In addition, it might be useful for park rangers, winemakers, and other types of customers who work in rural areas.
The Recon vehicle is relatively easy to fly, and operators will not be required to have a pilot’s license. That’s because the eVTOL falls under the FAA’s Part 103 rules covering ultralight recreational aircraft, which do not require type certification.
Ryse’s Recon eVTOL is somewhat of a flying ATV, with a single seat surrounded by six independent, battery-powered propellers. It can fly as high as 400 feet (120 meters) at a maximum speed of about 63 mph (100 km/h), and it has a range of about 25 miles (40 km). That means it can fly for about 25 minutes on a single charge, and Ryse says the batteries can be fully recharged in under 90 minutes.
“It was effortless and very enjoyable to fly,” said Erik Stephansen, Ryse’s director of regulatory affairs and aeronautics, who piloted the aircraft during its inaugural test flights. “I was thrilled at how I could literally hover, take my hands off the controls, and the Recon sat there stable and safe.”
Ryse says it plans to start delivering the $150,000 aircraft to customers in 2023. For now, the company plans to continue flight testing with Recon and “expects to incrementally ramp up the Recon’s capabilities and limits,” company officials said in an August 22 statement.
However, due to Recon’s classification under the FAA’s Part 103 rules, there are some limitations. For example, under those rules, the vehicle’s speed must be capped at 63 mph, its payload cannot exceed 255 pounds (116 kg), and the aircraft can fly only during the daytime in acceptable weather.
Ryse plans to showcase its Recon eVTOL next week at the 2022 Farm Progress Airshow in Boone, Iowa.