Ryse Aero is a one-person eVTOL that’s like a flying ATV • TechCrunch.


Air taxis make up most of the buzz surrounding eVTOLs — electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles — despite a long road to market, upfront costs and many regulatory hurdles. Ryse Aero Technologies, an Ohio-based startup building drones similar to flying ATVs, thinks eVTOL technology could be better used in the near-term market.

Founded in April 2021, the company recently opened reservations for its Recon ultralight aircraft – a single-seat eVTL with land and water takeoff and landing capabilities and a maximum altitude of 400 feet. It is powered by six independent motors, each with removable and rechargeable batteries.

Rice CEO Mick Kowitz told TechCrunch that the idea was to make something that was extremely reliable and that anyone could fly, and that the Recon, which weighs 286 pounds, is classified as an ultralight aircraft. That means it’s intended for residential use, can’t fly in crowded areas, and won’t carry heavy loads.

It also means that the Federal Aviation Administration does not specify the number of hours of training required, so no one can A fly.

“We give one to two hours of training and they’re using it,” Kowitz said.

So far, Ryse has built four prototypes, as well as a few pre-production vehicles, which it is currently testing with farmers. The startup sees many potential uses for the aircraft — search and rescue, parks and recreation, oil and gas mining — but Rice’s go-to-market strategy targets the agricultural industry in the United States.

“We’re really moving toward crop shrinkage, reduced soil compaction, planting into fields,” Kowitz said. “You can have a rash in the field, and the soil is really wet, but you still have to get out there. What farmers do is drive as far as they can in their pickup trucks or ATVs, sometimes two or three miles to the problem area. Recon gets them there quickly without much fuss.

By the way, soil compaction is caused by foot traffic, stock trampling, cars or other agricultural machinery putting weight on the soil. This interferes with root growth by compressing the pores that would otherwise transport water or air, causing a lack of oxygen.

Kowitz says that in addition to eliminating soil compaction, Recon can save farmers, ranchers and vineyard owners even more valuable time. The Recon has enough battery capacity to fly 10 miles out and 10 miles back, which is about 25 minutes of play at a top speed of 63 miles per hour.

Image Credits: Ryse Aero Technologies

“Your time is valuable, and in the agricultural world a lot of people don’t value their time because they think it’s just one product,” says Kowitz. “In their farm life, they’ve had the idea that walking to that field is the time you spend, but if you find places and save yourself an hour, two hours a day, what’s that worth to you?”

How about $150,000? That’s why the Recon goes on the market. And that might sound like a pretty penny to a city slicker like you or me, but in the agricultural world, that doesn’t matter—at least according to Kowitz. Just one tractor can cost around $500,000, and many farms buy more than one.

While it’s too early to know for sure how long a Recon will last in the field, Kowitz says Rice has done environmental and vibration and sensor tests and thinks the aircraft has a lifespan of eight to 10 years.

Recon interest already exists. Kowitz said Rice has earmarked about $15 million in revenue from future reservations, which means 100 potential customers have put their names down to lock in a delivery date.

One problem the company may face is that the planes cannot be used for commercial operations. The FAA’s ruling on ultralight aircraft, Section 103, states that the vehicle must be used for recreational or sporting purposes only. Rice said there are many operators who use these types of aircraft to better their business without violating the rules, and that the company has been in discussions with the FAA about the use case. The FAA has not commented specifically on Ryse, but the agency told TechCrunch that it evaluates each case on a case-by-case basis.

Ryse needn’t worry about this as the company is building a manufacturing facility and aims to produce 10 vehicles per month by 2023. The company has raised $5.5 million and hopes to raise another $25 million in a Series B round next year and through 2025 to help it ramp up production to 100 units per month.


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