Ryse Aero Technologies is getting ready to begin deliveries of its Recon personal eVTOL this year. After flying the Recon at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month, the company opened its online reservation system and has already collected nearly 100 order requests for the $150,000 aircraft, Ryse CEO Mick Kowitz told FutureFlight.
The company’s order book is now worth more than $10 million, Kowitz said, and about 80 percent of those initial preorders are from farmers with more than 100 acres of land. Ryse plans to begin converting those reservations into firm orders and collecting payments from customers in late March or early April, with deliveries beginning in late Q3 of 2023. Agricultural customers will have priority over recreational users when it comes to scheduling delivery slots, but after that, it will be first come, first served, according to Kowitz. Prospective customers can reserve a Recon at Ryse's website.
Because the Recon is an ultralight aircraft covered by the FAA’s Part 103 rules, operators don’t need a license and the vehicle doesn't have to go through the rigorous FAA type certification process that's required for other eVTOL aircraft intended for commercial uses, such as air taxis. However, there are some restrictions on where, when, and how operators of Part 103 aircraft can fly them. For example, they can fly only during the daytime in clear weather conditions, and their airspeed cannot exceed 55 knots.
The Recon has six independent battery-powered propellers and can safely land in the event of one or two propellers failing. It uses fly-by-wire technology for easy maneuvering and can be operated with either a joystick or a touchscreen control panel for additional redundancy. Its batteries take up to 90 minutes to fully recharge, and it can fly for about 25 minutes on a single charge, giving it a range of about 25 miles.
Farming and Fun: Use Cases for the Ryse Recon
Most prospective customers are interested in employing the single-seat Recon for agricultural purposes, such as farming and ranching, because the small battery-powered aircraft offers a quick and easy way to conduct land surveillance and get to hard-to-reach places.
“In the early planting season, it's wet, and you can't use an ATV or a pickup truck to get two miles into your fields," Kowitz explained. "So you hop in your Recon and fly out and land where you can to check out your crops instead of trying to walk through the muck of two acres. In the dry season, farmers need to get out to their irrigation system. When the crops are up to your shoulder, it's really hard to get out to the center of your irrigation system, which is oftentimes half a mile to three quarters of a mile out. Trying to walk through corn stalks is a hard, hard thing. And so flying out and landing [the aircraft] right inside the center of the irrigation platform—which it fits on—is a nice use case for it.”
Other buyers plan to use the vehicle for recreation, however. For example, several customers using Ryse’s online reservation system have expressed interest in bringing the Recon on camping trips, to fly it over lakes, and even to go fishing, as the aircraft is capable of taking off and landing on water.
In fact, Ryse has already tested the Recon on a fishing excursion. “We took it to a nice pond back before New Year’s," Kowitz said, "and we actually had a fishing pole and you could easily fish off of it. So, that was kind of cool." The company is also exploring the possibility of offering Recon rentals at popular vacation destinations, such as beaches and national parks.
“We want to have people be able to enjoy flight and experience real flight, and that's what the Recon is going to let people do, so hopefully the general population embraces it,” Kowitz said. “Right now, large property owners are probably the big use case, but down the road, we can see this being just like any ultralight you rent at a beach and could fly down the coastline.”
Recon Testing and Production
Ryse has been flight-testing the Recon since the summer of 2022. The company is beta-testing its preproduction vehicle and, last fall, it delivered five Recon aircraft to prospective customers in Colorado, California, Oregon, Michigan, Virginia, and Kentucky. The testing locations include two farms, two vineyards, and one ranch.
Kowitz said he doesn’t expect any major design changes following the beta tests. The company is using these trials “to understand the durability of the vehicle [and] make sure we've met all the requirements that people in those categories would need," he said. "We're confident in the aerodynamics of it, the design of it, and the control system, but it’s the little things, like making sure the paint doesn't chip a lot and making sure the seats are comfortable enough.”
One benefit of developing a Part 103 aircraft is that, because it will not require any certification from the FAA, the company can easily implement design changes after it begins making deliveries.
Ryse plans to build the first 100 Recons at its Cincinnati headquarters at a rate of about 10 aircraft per month. However, it is looking to open a larger facility that will eventually be able to produce up to 3,000 units per year, Kowitz said. The company aims to have that new facility up and running by the end of 2023, and initially, it will produce about 100 aircraft per month. Ryse currently employs only 25 people, but it is in the process of hiring about 40 additional engineers and technicians to help ramp up production, Kowitz said.