Making a flying ATV is easier than you think – or at least it was for me. And that is no humble boast. It’s meant to be used by any idiot like me who grabs it for the recycling bin every time he pulls out of the driveway.
Making sure to fly without worry, however, was another question.
RYSE Aero Technologies CEO and founder Mick Kowitz yelled in my ear through the radio transmitter in my helmet, “Okay, you’re doing great.” “Now pull back the left handle and press the button for easy pickup.”
The machine I’m sitting on – codenamed RECON – is known as an Electric Takeoff and Landing (Evitol) aircraft and is Kowitz’s brainchild. ought to. Technically Flying ATV, very close. As I pulled the handle back, six battery powered propellers whirred to life around me and my seat began to squeal. Images of the new Top gun The movie flashed through my mind before the idea of Macabre’s intervention popped into my head: If I put my arm out a little, I’ll cut my arm off completely. A shiver ran down my spine as I tried to bury the mental image.
I pressed the release button on the center console. Nothing happened for a moment. Just as I was about to tell Mick that something was wrong, the engines screeched loudly as the RECON shifted sideways. Before I could react I felt a weight on my chest and my heart jumped into my throat as it lifted me off the ground and into the sky.
Although I was leading the craft that day, “journalists covering field trips” aren’t exactly RYSE’s target. In fact, Kowitz told me he wanted to put the aircraft in the hands of a different and unexpected audience: farmers and ranchers. Other evitol companies, such as Joby Aviation and Vertical Aerospace, have their sights set on personal transportation (think flying Ubers and Lyft), while others are focused on building. Aircraft for military and defense.
RYSE, on the other hand, is focused on industries where Kowitz is at the forefront of innovation and technology – despite public perception.
“Let’s think of farmers and put them in the hills bucket, but I chose them for the opposite,” Kowitz said. “They are actually the most innovative consumers in the world. Like tractors, they are the first in the market to use fully autonomous GPS-based equipment for the past 20 years. Nobody was doing that. Tesla only had Autopilot in their cars for eight years.
“Then there’s tracking fields and soil, high-resolution imagery and landscape analysis – the most sophisticated science of agriculture,” he added. “These people use high technology before anyone else.”
That’s why Kowitz believes farmers, ranchers and other rural communities can benefit from a machine like RECON. These people own hundreds if not thousands of acres of land, farms and fields that must be regularly maintained and analyzed. If there are grazing animals on it, a farmer needs to be able to get out there quickly to help their livestock in an emergency.
Currently, the only way to do that is to walk, drive a truck or utility vehicle, ride a horse or – if you have a lot of money – fly in a helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft. All of these options can be an incredible drain on time and money, or they can directly endanger the land (you don’t want to drive over your grain).
“Being able to take a vehicle like that can get you out there as the crow flies,” Kowitz said. “If you break equipment in the field, you can get there, fix it, and get it back.”
He told a story about a rancher in Colorado who had 20,000 acres of cattle. As winter approaches, 80 percent of the herd naturally returns to “feed and get closer to the farm.” However, the remaining 20 percent remains in the soil.
“Every October he has to send five cows on horseback to fetch those cattle. Because those five are at ground level, they can only cover about 20 miles a day,” explained Kowitz. “With this vehicle, you can go up to find out where you are and find people where they are more efficiently. You can save thousands of dollars by just using it for location.
“Do I personally want to risk my life counting on a few batteries and a drone? I do not know. “
– Bill Seda
Bill Seda will tell you himself that he’s not a very “interesting farmer.” The 61-year-old grows corn and soybeans on his 550-acre farm in Tama County, Iowa. In the year He knows a little about RECON about his upcoming appearance at the Agricultural Progress Show in Boone, Iowa on August 30th. But he is skeptical about the technology and how useful it can be to a farmer. Mention the price tag.
“I’m an old-school kind of farmer,” Seda told me. “Anything new in innovation has to be able to pay for itself in a reasonable amount of time. Some farmers like to have the newest and best toys, but if it doesn’t pay you back quickly on your investment, you’re losing money.”
He’s the exact type of farmer RYSE needs to convince RECON—which is slated to cost $150,000—is a good investment. To do this, they need to address two of EV’s biggest challenges: battery life and safety (the same hurdles facing the electric vehicle industry).
The RECON and its six on-board batteries currently provide 25 minutes of flight time per charge, although that may change depending on factors including weather, wind, density, altitude, and user weight. That can be a big problem for a farmer who needs to fly somewhere at least 15 minutes one way.
According to Kowitz, this can be solved by stacking another set of fresh batteries at your destination and swapping them for the return flight. Even so, it takes more money and time to purchase and install kiosks and batteries all over the land.
And that’s assuming there’s no fear of falling from the sky. It is safe to assume that most of the farmers and breeders have no previous experimental experience. And when you’re juggling a plane with six unguarded propellers, the intrusive thoughts of a broken limb aren’t so crazy.
But Kowitz stressed that RYSE put user safety first when designing the car. Part of that comes through the software, which uses AI to help the craft fly smoothly by responding to changes in weather and altitude. Kowitz also says that propellers are safer than helicopters or other EVs. “A helicopter has a single point of failure due to a single rotor,” he said. “We have six and we’ve worked hard to make sure it doesn’t go down and hurt you.”
Each propeller has a battery to power it, and even if one battery dies, Kowitz said, the other batteries keep the vehicle spinning. That way, if something happens and the rotor stops working, you won’t just fall out of the sky.
RECON completes the training requirements needed to get something like a pilot’s license, because the plane falls under the Federal Aviation Administration’s category of “ultralight aircraft” — anyone can jump into RECON and start working right away. The company’s video tutorial, which shows the user how to care for the vehicle, takes about 45 minutes to watch, Kowitz said. Users still need to follow FAA regulations in areas where they can and cannot fly, such as airports or cities. and installation restrictions.
This means that the rules can be broken very easily for a vehicle flying 400 feet in the air and 63 miles per hour, either carelessly or intentionally. One stupid decision can cost you and possibly the lives of others.
“Would I personally want to risk my life with a few batteries and drones?” Seda asked. “I do not know.”
“I can tell you from personal experience: it’s boring.“
– Mick Kowitz, RYSE Aero Tech
I arrived at the RYSE facility in Cincinnati, Ohio on a clear, sunny morning—perfect flying weather—and I must have worn my nerves on my face, because Kowitz was assuring me how safe the machine was.
“I can tell you from personal experience: it’s boring,” he said. “I’m a pilot, so I’m used to all the rigamarole of controlling an airplane, but this time it puts all the workload on you. That’s the point. It’s got to be like jumping on an ATV, unless you have a higher scale.
Still, my own personal history with potentially dangerous transportation equipment kept my concerns high as I prepared to board the RECON. Going through the instructions on how to fly the vehicle in an empty parking lot seemed easy enough to understand – the only question was if I could do it and survive.
After the training I was given a flight helmet and headed to the RECON station. It was a team of engineers that was developing for the company. I felt like an Apollo astronaut going on a rocket destined for the moon. When I walked in, I found the seating smaller than I expected. I’m only 6′ 1” tall and I still struggled to fit my feet comfortably. They handcuffed me before the team took their position about 20 feet away to watch. I was on my own.
I ran through the pre-flight checklist on the center console of the things I needed to check before I flew: no person or object within 20 feet of RECON, clear weather, propellers in working order, etc. , it was time to fly.
Following the prompts on the console and Kowitz, I pressed a few buttons and pulled the lever back before taking off. By doing so, I felt confident as RECON took to the air, defying the laws of man and physics and God. Wind from the movers whipped around me as I stopped myself from completely white-knocking the controls. Finally, the vehicle went up into a huge space about 10 feet or more off the ground. Although nowhere near the 400 foot ceiling, I felt like I was in orbit too.
I tried to imagine what a farmer would be thinking here trying to get a good look at her crops or find a lost calf, and I could see the value in this truck to the agriculture industry. And if RYSE can get farmers to buy into eVTOLs, the general public might be more comfortable. That’s still a long shot – but possible.
“You’re doing great,” Kowitz said. “Now push the right control forward.”
I slowly eased it forward. As I did, RECON also moved slowly. I have to admit: it was pretty cool. Of course, I wasn’t breaking the sound barrier, but I was piloting a real-to-god flying ATV. And I’m not dead yet. It was wonderful.
Finally, I walked the length of the parking lot and pulled back on the left stick to bring up the RECON. It landed somewhat gracefully, moving to an angle before settling. Once the propeller wheels stopped whirring, I could hear the team cheering and clapping – I felt numb to cheers.
“how was it?” Kowitz asked after running up to me.
“Cool,” I said, stepping outside and taking off my helmet. “Easier than I expected. And you were right. It’s boring.”
He laughed and nodded. “Yeah, that’s the point.”