Skyryse, a California company that’s been around since 2016, has achieved a historic milestone in aviation safety by completing the world’s first-ever fully automated autorotation emergency landing procedure. It is one of dozens of first-of-its-kind safety features that will come standard on all Skyryse technology-equipped airplanes and helicopters, significantly advancing general aviation safety.
Aiming to reduce – and eventually eliminate – general aviation fatalities, the startup is working on autonomous and fly-by-wire retrofit systems for a range of different aircraft. The company achieved a milestone in 2019 when it successfully demonstrated the first autonomous flight of its kind, using a Robinson R-44 upgraded with its Flight Stack technology.
Skyryse’s proprietary technology is a highly automated flight control system that boasts dozens of first-of-its-kind safety features. Among these innovations are a simplified control system and the world’s first fully automated autorotation, a maneuver crucial for helicopter pilots in the event of engine failure.
The system can be installed on any aircraft and is the first to work with the pilot through a reimagined HMI (Human Machine Interface) to manage complex emergency procedures.
In such a scenario, helicopter pilots have less than two seconds to perform a fully manual series of multiple control movements in an autorotation. Due to the complexity of current control systems, the company claims helicopters have been unable to automate this maneuver until now.
Skyryse’s system uses proprietary redundant flight controls and a suite of sensors to quickly recognize a power failure. It then sets in motion multiple procedures and, with a push of a button, makes the landing uneventful. From entry to steady descent, it lowers the aircraft’s pitch, aligns the nose, manages aircraft stability, completes the flare, and lands gracefully at the desired landing location.
“Every year, more than 400 people lose their lives in general aviation accidents just in the United States alone,” said Mark Groden, founder, and CEO of Skyryse. “Fully automated autorotation is just one example of how our technology will bring a commercial grade of safety and beyond to general aviation.”
The company has completed dozens of automated autorotations since the initial demonstration. The first fully automated autorotation from altitude to the ground was achieved in a Robinson R66 outfitted with Skyryse technology at their Los Angeles-area Flight Test and Performance Facility on July 22, 2023. This accomplishment was officially recognized by Guinness World Records, certifying the record for the first automated autorotation landing by rotorcraft.
This technology aims to mitigate the risks associated with engine failure. In case of engine failure during flight, the pilot is required to take swift and precise action to avoid any risks. Traditionally, pilots have less than two seconds to perform complicated control movements for a successful landing in such scenarios. However, Skyryse has developed a groundbreaking technology that not only detects power failure immediately but also conducts autorotation with unmatched efficiency. The system maintains a higher main rotor RPM, which provides pilots with more stored energy to work with.
Additionally, Skyryse claims that its FlightOS software can simplify the cockpit and flight controls, as well as automate certain features, enabling pilots to become proficient and safe without constantly logging flight time. According to the company, FlightOS can boost the supply of pilots and make it easier to manage any aircraft and earn a pilot’s license.
The company says it will unveil the first production helicopter featuring its technology – including the world’s first simplified control system – in the first quarter of next year.