Surefly Wants to Be Your Personal Helicopter
Tom Spendlove posted on January 25, 2019 |
This pilot-driven drone has eight propellers and a $200,000 price tag.

The Workhorse Group is an original equipment manufacturer in Loveland, Ohio focusing on the W-15 electric pickup truck and lightweight electric delivery vehicles. The company has a few different origin points but one was a 2010 contest sponsored by Progressive Insurance to develop renewable production vehicles. Workhorse has been making news this month after showing off their Surefly personal drone at the North American International Auto Show.  

Surefly is classified as a personal helicopter but uses eight independent motors and carbon fiber propellers instead of traditional helicopter blades. The copter is intended for either a pilot with passenger or a pilot with cargo, the system weighing 1850 pounds and a maximum takeoff weight of 2400 pounds. Power is pushed to the propellers from fuel driven piston engines, and two 7.5 kiloWatt hour lithium battery packs provide five minutes of backup power in case of emergency. A ballistic parachute is also incorporated for emergency landings. Top speeds of 70 knots can be achieved, and the maximum flight time of 2.5 hours is called out with a 5,000 feet flight ceiling.

Steve Burns, the founder of Workhorse, has been dropping great soundbites this week including “why doesn’t everyone have a helicopter in their garage?” and “if you can fly a drone, you can fly this”. Somehow the idea of a $200,000 passenger drone (hybrid personal electric helicopter) seems more possible in my head than a flying car when discussing future transportation modes, but the company has a confidence allowing them to take $1000 refundable deposits for a goal of starting production in 2019. Even if engineering, manufacturing, assembly and sales are ironed out this year the problem of FAA certification still needs to be solved. Workhorse is busy on several fronts, including its E-GEN electric delivery trucks and the Horsefly drones that are sadly drones named after a company with ‘horse’ in the name and do not resemble a horsefly. The engineer in all of us needs to believe in the idea of futuristic personal flight vehicles, it would be great to see Surefly be a part of that future.

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