Skyryse, aiming to bring trust, safety and the accessibility of flight through a highly automated and touchscreen flight control system, will bring to market the first single-pilot, fly-by-wire, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) providing full Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), certification and capability. The Skyryse FlightOS system with IFR capability adds "monumentally more confidence, safety, and control to smaller, light-utility turbines, like the Robinson R66, under instrument meteorological conditions (IMC)," according to a Skyryse news release.
The company says adding Skyryse's highly automated, triply redundant, dissimilar architecture, fly-by-wire system, and IFR capabilities can mitigate most weather and terrain-related accidents.
"One of the things we've been lacking for a long time is the ability to file and fly by IFR or fly in the clouds with small helicopters," said Jim Viola, president and CEO of Helicopter Association International. "The NTSB has recommended that you should file and fly IFR if you carry passengers. The ability that this system (Skyryse) brings to do that safely, I saw firsthand. The question is, how long before we can implement it more broadly?"
The Skyryse technology stack and universal flight deck bring greater reliability, confidence, and aircraft control. FlightOS is an always-on and always-engaged system maintaining the aircraft's altitude, heading, and last commanded velocity regardless of visuals or weather conditions. This capability allows the pilot to maintain stability throughout the flight and utilize flight data before reacting to unexpected flight conditions.
In 2023 the average rotary airframe with IFR capability is within the 5 million dollar range to purchase and more than $1,500 an hour to operate. The Skyryse Robinson R66 will provide similar safety at a fraction of the cost to purchase and less than half the cost to operate. Whether pilots encounter terrain, inclement weather, or low clouds, IFR and FlightOS on a light single-engine rotorcraft make safe flight available to everyone, not just those who can afford it.
"Cockpits and flight control systems have not changed much over the last century. We've reached a point where OEMs, pilots, federal agencies, and general aviation customers are looking for, and even demanding, changes that increase safety and reduce pilot error. At Skyryse, we believe it's a moral imperative to deliver on this mission," said Dr. Mark Groden, founder, and CEO of Skyryse. "We strongly believe that if this technology had been available sooner, we would have saved more than a thousand lives, including Kobe Bryant."
For urban air mobility (UAM) to succeed, Skyryse believes they must be able to fly safely in inclement weather and maintain stability through fog and clouds. According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), inclement weather increases the opportunity for pilot error, causing as much as 80% of aviation accidents. Skyryse operated the first mass air-taxi operation in 2019, running 1,200 trips in just three months. The company determined from the experience that UAM will remain grounded 25% or more of the time without IFR capability. Skyryse says implementing IFR on light rotorcraft unlocks the reliability and safety of UAM in all weather conditions and allows more people to fly safely.
Air Methods, the leading American air medical transport company, has already signed with Skyryse to retrofit more than 400 units in their fleet, most of which are single-engine helicopters. FlightOS with IFR allows the company to execute more life-saving missions in poor weather or tight terrain, answer more calls, and save more lives. In unexpected conditions, a single pilot only has 56 seconds upon entering IMC. The United States Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) makes this point clear in a video produced in 2021 showcasing the risks single-engine pilots take without IFR.
"When we ran our air taxi service, we had to cancel about 25 percent of our taxi flights due to weather in Los Angeles, making UAM unreliable, even in a temperate climate. Imagine if your ride-hailing service didn't show up a quarter of the time due to weather. You'd likely abandon that method of transport," Groden explains. "With IFR capabilities, reliable UAM becomes a reality."