Skyryse is close to certifying FlightOS, part of a broader flight automation technology stack the company is developing that will significantly reduce pilot workload and improve the ability of newly-certified pilots. Skyryse aims to use FlightOS to expand access to safe flight as well as enable expert pilots to more safely execute dangerous or complicated missions.
FlightOS can be retrofitted onto any rotary- or fixed-wing airframe, including future eVTOL aircraft, according to Skyryse CEO Mark Groden. The hardware and software package, which does require fly-by-wire installation if not already available on an airframe, “makes flight controls so simple they can be operated with a touchscreen tablet or joystick, while on-board computers control all aspects of the flight envelope, manage the airframe’s structural and aerodynamic operating limits, and leverage exterior radar and sensors for real-time situational awareness,” according to the company.
“We can take people basically off the street, with no flight experience, and in a very short period of time they’re capable of accessing that full flight envelope and all the capabilities of the aircraft without any risk of loss of control, flying into terrain or flying into areas of low visibility,” Groden told sister publication Avionics International. “The system doesn’t care if there is no visibility outside the aircraft, it’s going to maintain a stable flight profile and continue with what the person desires.”
Though Skyryse has demonstrated the ability of FlightOS to enable safe flight by non-pilots, that isn’t the goal, according to Groden. He hopes to reduce the workload on expert pilots, improving the safety of dangerous missions.
Skyryse says there is significant interest in its flight automation technology from the Pentagon, but declined to comment further. Examples of civilian applications of FlightOS for skills pilots, according to Groden, include nighttime firefighting and emergency medical response.
Groden told Avionics he is in “active conversations” with companies that already manufacture aircraft as well as others who intend to manufacture aircraft in the future. Certification of FlightOS, which Groden said will be as a supplemental type certificate for specific airframes, is “months, not years away,” declining to say what airframes are currently being evaluated.
The company’s December announcement (and video) of a fully-autonomous helicopter showed a Robinson R44 modified by Skyryse. Groden said his company chose that aircraft in part because it is statically and dynamically unstable, and creates strict limits on weight and power, making FlightOS difficult to integrate.
“We’ve successfully done it, and we’ve done it with a hardware stack that is entirely transferrable to all other aircraft types,” Groden said, though older GA aircraft first have to be retrofitted with fly-by-wire systems.
“It’s not just about building a really redundant and reliable airframe, and it’s not just about building a high level of automation into the airframe; it’s about building a system that can support that type of transportation, and that’s what Skyryse is building on the whole,” Groden added. “Our technology platform, of which FlightOS is a component, will enable that transportation network of the future.”