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Mon, Apr 10, 2023

Skyryse Introduces IFR Capable R-66

Everyone’s Everything

Skyryse is a controversial Los Angeles-based aerospace technology startup with a stated mission of “bringing general aviation fatalities to zero.”

The company rather hyperbolically sets forth: “At Skyryse, we believe it’s our moral imperative to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, general aviation fatalities through the widespread adoption of our universal flight deck. Our system makes flying accessible and safe for all. With our technology, earning a pilot’s license is easy, empowering anyone to experience the joy and freedom of flight, and connect with the world.

Skyryse announced plans to certify a variation of Robinson’s R66 single-turbine-engine light-helicopter for IFR flight. The aircraft is supplemented with a suite of technologies that Skyryse asserts will make general aviation “safer and more affordable, with the costs of purchasing and operating this system only a fraction of pre-existing programs with the same purpose.”

Skyryse’s aspiration to eliminate general aviation fatalities is predicated, primarily, upon the widespread adoption of a universal flight deck of the company’s conception. Skyryse’s system, dubbed FlightOS, is intended to improve safety of flight by reducing pilot workload and training needs rather than displacing flight crew from aircraft flight decks. According to Skyryse, FlightOS will bring commercial aviation safety standards to general aviation, which the company alleges suffers disproportionately from safety risks ascribable to pilot error and poor weather.

The FlightOS suite replaces what Skyryse terms the “complex controls” of typical general aviation flight decks with a touchscreen tablet display and a joystick by which pilots interface with the system’s fly-by-wire hardware and software. FlightOS interprets pilot inputs, then sees to the entirety of core piloting functions and, according to Skyryse, prevents pilots from inadvertently exceeding their respective aircrafts’ design flight envelopes and physical limitations. The company says that training pilots to interact with FlightOS requires mere minutes.

FlightOS is available for a number of general aviation aircraft. Once installed, the system operates in perpetuity—always on, always engaged—and maintains aircraft heading, altitude, airspeed, and navigational functions in both VMC and IMC conditions.

Skyryse CEO Dr. Mark Groden stated: “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. We strongly believe that if this technology had been available sooner, we would have saved more than a thousand lives, including Kobe Bryant.”

In 2023, the average IFR capable turbine-engined helicopter commands a price of some $5-million. What’s more, the hourly operating costs of such aircraft average $1,500. Skyryse claims a Robinson 66 retrofitted with its FlightOS suite can be had for only a fraction of the cost of competing helicopter models and be operated at fifty-percent the hourly cost of such aircraft while offering similar levels of safety.

Skyryse believes its FlightOS-enhanced Robinson 66 will occasion benefits likely to extend to the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) sector. While running a 2019 prototype mass air-taxi operation in Los Angeles, Skyryse determined inclement weather grounded 25-percent of its UAM operations. The company believes its technology will improve overall UAM mission-readiness, thereby facilitating UAM’s global inception.

Aeromedical operator Air Methods has entered into an agreement with Skyryse by which more than four-hundred of the former entity’s helicopters will be retrofitted with the FlightOS system. Skyryse aspires to see its cockpit technology broadly adopted across the aviation industry.

In March 2022, Moog Inc.—a leading producer of flight-control and utility actuation systems for civil and military aircraft—filed a federal lawsuit alleging Misook Kim, a former Moog software engineer, illegally copied 15-years of the company’s research to an external hard-drive which she delivered to her new employer—Skyryse.

In its lawsuit, Moog states the inchoate unmanned rotorcraft market remains hotly-contested, and no clear leader has yet been established. Moog asserts the first company to field a viable product will dominate the sector, and alleges that Skyryse, by gaining illegal access to Moog’s flight control technology, has been afforded "a substantial and unfair competitive advantage." According to Moog’s suit, Skyrise, by way of Misook Kim’s alleged actions, has saved itself tens-of-millions of dollars and long years of developing and testing software.



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