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Sure, I'd Like to Fly One

10 July 2017

The SureFly hybrid/electric personal helicopter. (Credit: Workhorse Group Inc.)The SureFly hybrid/electric personal helicopter. (Credit: Workhorse Group Inc.)

It’s a personal helicopter. And if you happen to be Oshkosh, Wisconsin at the end of July, you can see it on display – for the first time in the country.

Called the SureFly, it’s a concept created by Workhorse Group Inc., a technology company focused on providing electric mobility solutions to the transportation sector. The company says that the goal of SureFly is to be safer and more stable than a typical helicopter, due to its redundant design – four propeller arms with two fixed, contra-rotating props apiece, each operating independently. Those propeller arms fold down to minimize the footprint, allowing it to fit inside a standard garage. There’s also a gas combustion engine to generate electricity and a parallel battery pack offering a redundant/backup power source, so long battery charges between flights are eliminated. In the event of an engine failure, there’s even a ballistic parachute to bring the craft down safely.

The design leverages platform battery packaging, management systems and controls already in use in Workhorse’s commercialized medium-duty, extended-range-battery electric vehicles. Designed for short hops with a range of approximately 70 miles, the aircraft is currently undergoing ground testing; the company expects to have FAA certification by 2019.

The SureFly is a two-seater that's designed to be easy to pilot, although this may be a moot point -- future models will be designed for autonomous flight, capable of carrying payloads up to 400 pounds. Anticipated markets are precision agriculture, emergency responders, city commuters and the military.

More specs:

  • Piloted vehicle designed to carry pilot and passenger, or pilot and cargo
  • Electric-driven props: 2 contra-rotating props per arm; eight motors, each driving a single propeller
  • Fix prop pitch and no transitional parts (wings, tail, tilt rotor, tilt wings) for simplicity and safety
  • Gasoline piston engine drives dual generators to provide power to prop motors
  • Dual lithium battery packs: 7.5kWh each, used for emergency landing power (5 minutes) in the event the gasoline generator fails
  • Fuselage and props are carbon fiber for durability and light weight
  • Curb weight: 1100 lbs.
  • Max takeoff weight: 1500 lbs.
  • Top speed: 70 mph
  • Flight ceiling: 4000 feet
  • One hour of flight time available per tank of gasoline

Estimated cost is under $200,000, and the company is already accepting pre-orders.

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