Ryse Aero’s one-person eVTOL is like a flying ATV • TechCrunch

Air taxis account for most of the hype around eVTOLs – electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles – despite their long road to market, high upfront costs and myriad regulatory hurdles. Ryse Aero Technologies, an Ohio-based startup building aircraft similar to flying ATVs, believes the eVTOL technology could best be utilized in a near-term market.

The company, founded in April 2021, recently opened bookings for its Recon ultralight aircraft – a one-seat eVTOL with land and water take-off and landing capabilities and a maximum altitude of 400 feet. It is powered by six independent motors, each with removable and rechargeable batteries.

“The idea was to make something extremely safe, extremely reliable that anyone could fly,” Ryse CEO Mick Kowitz told TechCrunch, noting that the Recon, weighing in at 286 pounds, is classified as an ultralight aircraft. This means that it is intended for single occupancy, cannot fly over congested areas and does not carry heavy loads.

It also means that the Federal Aviation Administration does not stipulate a set number of hours of training required, so really anyone it could fly one.

“We give you about one to two hours of training and you’re operating,” Kowitz said.

So far, Ryse has built four prototypes, as well as some pre-production vehicles that it is testing with farmers. The startup sees many potential use cases for the aircraft – search and rescue, parks and recreation, oil and gas mining – but Ryse’s go-to-market strategy is targeting the agricultural industry in the United States.

“We’re really leaning towards reducing crop compaction, reducing soil compaction, being able to get to your fields at planting time,” Kowitz said. “You can have a pest in the field, and the soil is very wet, but you still have to go there. What farmers do is they drive as far as they can in their pickup truck or ATV, and sometimes they walk two or three miles to where the problem is. Recon can get them there quickly without a lot of compression.”

Soil compaction, by the way, is caused by the weight of the soil through foot traffic, trampling by cattle, cars or other agricultural machinery. This compresses pores that would otherwise carry water or air, interfering with root growth and causing oxygen deficiencies.

In addition to preventing soil compaction, Kowitz says Recon can save farmers, ranchers and vineyard owners an even more precious commodity – their time. The Recon has enough battery capacity to fly 10 miles out and 10 miles back, which equals about 25 minutes of gameplay at a top speed of 63 miles per hour.

aerial view of ryse recon evtol

Image credits: Ryse Aero Technologies

“Your time is valuable, and in the agricultural world, many people don’t necessarily value their time because it’s a commodity they think they have enough of,” Kowitz said. “In their farming life, they also lived with the idea that time is what you spend walking to that field, but if you get places and save an hour, two hours a day, what is that worth to you?”

How about $150,000? That’s what the Recon will be going for when it’s on the market. And that might seem like good money for a city hustler like you or me, but in the farming world that’s nothing—at least according to Kowitz. A tractor alone can cost around $500,000, and many farms buy more than one.

While it’s still too early to know for sure how long a Recon can last in the field, Kowitz said that Ryse has done environmental, vibration and sensor tests and thinks the aircraft likely has a lifespan of eight to 10 years.

There is already demand for the Recon. Kowitz said Ryse has already earmarked about $15 million in future booking revenue, which means 100 potential customers have put their names in to secure a delivery date.

The only possible hurdle the company faces is whether its aircraft can actually be used for commercial operations. The FAA decision on ultralight aircraft, Part 103, stipulates that the vehicle must only be used for recreational or sporting purposes. Ryse said there are many operators using this type of aircraft to improve their business operations without violating the rule, and the company has spoken with the FAA about its “worry-free” use case. The FAA did not specifically comment on Ryse, but the agency told TechCrunch that it evaluates each case on a case-by-case basis.

Ryse shouldn’t worry too much about this, as the company is building a production facility and aims to produce 10 vehicles per month throughout 2023, with deliveries starting later in the year. The company has raised $5.5 million and hopes to raise another $25 million for its Series B round to help it ramp up production to 100 units a month next year and into 2025.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *