After unveiling its W-15 electric pickup truck, Workhorse Group Inc., an American technology company focused on providing sustainable and cost-effective solutions to the commercial transportation sector, has decided to electrify a very different type of vehicle. The SureFly is a small extended-range electric helicopter the company unveiled at the Paris Air Show on June 19. SureFly is a personal helicopter/VTOL aircraft, designed to be safer and more stable than a typical helicopter due to its redundant design, which includes four propeller arms, two fixed contra-rotating propellers on each arm, a backup battery to drive the electric motors in the event of engine failure and a ballistic parachute that safely brings down the craft if needed.
SureFly’s hybrid design leverages Workhorse’s platform battery packaging, management systems and controls utilized in its currently commercialized medium-duty, range-extended battery electric vehicles. It features a gas combustion engine generating electricity and a parallel battery pack offering a redundant backup power source, eliminating the need for long battery charging periods between flights. SureFly is designed to be easy to pilot, and is expected to be capable of carrying pilot and passenger or cargo up to 70 miles. After a quick refill, SureFly is ready for the next hop.
Early models will be pilot-operated. The goal is to introduce future models featuring autonomous flight capable of carrying payloads of up to 400 pounds. Anticipated markets for the SureFly are precision agriculture, emergency responders, city commuters and military.
All of these redundancies should make the SureFly safer than conventional helicopters, Workhorse says. However, it won’t have the performance of regular choppers, with a maximum range of 70 miles and a top speed of 50 mph. Workhorse predicts the average flight distance will be only around 10 miles.
Workhorse plans to begin flight tests of the SureFly later this year, and hopes to achieve Federal Aviation Administration certification in 2019.