Skyryse is building a veritable Autopilot of the skies, with the goal to take passengers along for a autonomous helicopter ride up and above the traffic crawling below on land.
CEO Mark Groden uses Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved helicopters and focuses his Southern California-based company on the technology that automates the flight process.
“We aim to make [vertical take-off and landing vehicles] mainstream,” he said in a recent phone call. Instead of building an autonomous helicopter for military or emergency response or even for cargo, Groden anticipates an autonomous helicopter transportation system for everyday commuters.
Here’s the company’s first video showing off its software, known as the Flight Stack. It’s seen fully controlling a flight from end to end:
Normal helicopter controls require full-body involvement to fly the craft. Skyryse wants to have a pilot focus on the overall flight instead of the details.
Although Skyryse isn’t taking any passengers yet on what it claims will be short, traffic-beating flights, it already has five pilots and four flight-ready crafts to carry up to 100 passengers a day. This type of transportation in small crafts over short distances and at low altitudes is typically considered five to 10 years away, like with Uber Air. But Groden wants these trips to happen “as quickly and accessibly as we possibly can.” He’s not looking at 10 years down the road, but possibly as soon as the next year or two.
He called his Skyryse-equipped helicopter “the most automated vehicle that’s ever existed.” That includes the flight controls, emergency management, route planning, and dynamic traffic control all baked into the retrofitted planes. He compared some of the autonomous systems to a car with a flat tire that can figure out how to keep driving until there’s a good spot to pull over —all on its own, letting the pilot avoid any complicated situations.
The Skyryse website offers a waitlist to be one of the first passengers on the autonomous helicopter. That’d be one hell of a commute.