FAA OKs Tests Of The SureFly Electric Hybrid Helicopter
There is something going on at Workhorse, and its latest press release hints at what the company is trying to do. After the announcement of its newest electric vehicle (EV) van, it is now announcing that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given it a green light to fly its electric helicopter, the SureFly Electric Hybrid Helicopter.
In a previous article, we also mentioned two interesting products from Workhorse — a drone that sits on top of its vans to deliver goods and a hybrid helicopter. The SureFly Electric Hybrid Helicopter just received its Experimental Airworthiness Certificate from the FAA. The full FAA certification of the helicopter is expected in late 2019.
The company will now conduct test flights to demonstrate its airworthiness. The first test flight is scheduled for 12:00 pm in Las Vegas on January 8, 2018. It also coincides with the 2018 Consumer Electronic Show (CES), where the company will reveal a few of its products. It was originally unveiled at the Paris Air Show in June 2017.
The SureFly uses a drone-like octocopter design. The two-person, 400-pound payload aircraft has a range of roughly 70 miles. The appeal of the SureFly is that it is more affordable than a conventional helicopter, as well as easier to maintain.
As far as flying the SureFly, the system uses a joystick, much as you would use flying drone. Although early models will be manually piloted, future models will be autonomous.
Autonomous vehicles (AV) have been a hot topic for the past few years. Although some of the earlier projects have been throttled back (think Volvo’s enthusiasm in 2013 and how the company is now much more careful about the technology it hypes), Workhorse feels autonomous aircraft technology is nearly ready.
The company expects the SureFly to find use in agriculture, surveillance, aerial inspection, as well as emergency response tasks. What interests me is urban commuting, something that will need regulation on top of maturing the technology — and, of course, the coordination of this new type of traffic.
Spinning The SureFly Hybrid Helicopter Into a New Business
Other big recent news from the company is that Workhorse is trying to spin off some of its products into full-fledged companies of their own. In particular, that’s the SureFly. Workhorse hopes to have it turn into a publicly traded helicopter company named SureFly, Inc.
The price of a SureFly electrified helicopter is expected to be approximately $200,000, a fraction that of a regular helicopter. To give you an idea, an entry-level Eurocopter EC120 price will run around $1.4 million. The law enforcement ES350 and 350 B3 will run anywhere from $1.6 million to $1.9 million.
Are Personal Drones & Other VTOL Technology Ready?
Although we’re still in the infancy of personal hybrid helicopters, drones, and other forms of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, the price point and maintenance budget of such personal aircraft are becoming alluring. We imagine they will spawn a wave of more efficient air travel. As to how the technologies will become democratized is another subject.
In the meantime, if you are going to CES next week in Las Vegas, check out Workhorse’s SureFly Electric Hybrid Helicopter and let us know if this is something you would like to own and fly.