Workhorse, traditionally a creator of electric mobility solutions for commercial transportation, recently created a new public aviation division called SureFly Inc. that includes the company’s aerial technology, like the SureFly octocopter and the HorseFly drone. The new company will focus on its new flying machines so Workhorse can focus on its core business.
Ohio-based Workhorse planned a spectacular way to open the first day of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, when the company intended to fly its two-seat SureFly electric hybrid helicopter for the first time. Unfortunately the weather in Vegas didn’t cooperate and the maiden flight was scrubbed. First introduced at last year’s Paris Air Show, the SureFly octocopter earned its experimental FAA certificate last week as the company works towards a complete FAA certification by the end of next year.
Workhorse has now been given the go-ahead to begin test flights of its upcoming SureFly hybrid vertical takeoff and landing (Vtol) rotorcraft. The Vtol received the experimental airworthiness certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in preparation for its debut test flight in Las Vegas. The flight was to be conducted at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
SureFly is a two-person eVtol with a drone-inspired design. The aircraft has a 400-pound payload capacity and a maximum range of 70 miles. Workhorse claims that being controlled joystick similar to that found in drones, maneuvering the Surefly will be easier than handling a standard helicopter and will be cheaper to operate as well. SureFly is an electric hybrid helicopter. The aircraft uses a gasoline-fired piston engine to drive the dual generators needed to power its eight electric motors, each driving a single propeller. The machine incorporates a dual Lithium battery pack as an engine-failure back-up and comes standard with a ballistic parachute system for the safe return of the aircraft to the ground in emergency situations.
Last year, Workhorse executive Patrick Connors told AIN that he expected the SureFly certification program to cost approximately $40 million and that individual SureFly aircraft would have a target price of $200,000. While Workhorse has extensive experience with battery-powered vehicles, Connors noted that current batteries are too heavy and take too long to charge to be practical for daily use in the eVTOL mission. Emerging technology from major automakers such as Toyota might change this in the coming years, he added, but for now, “hybrid is the way to go.” he added.
Early models will be available for approximately the same price and will be pilot operated. Future models of the helicopter are also intended to be capable of autonomous flight. SureFly is expected to serve emergency response, precision agriculture and surveillance markets as well as urban commuting and potential military operations. The company is expecting to achieve full FAA certification for the helicopter in late 2019.