A hybrid-electric helicopter with eight rotors and two seats will make its first test flight Jan. 8 in Las Vegas, as Workhorse Group Inc. hopes to make a splashy entrance to the Consumer Electronics Show with the SureFly, a drone-like design scaled up to carry people.
The Ohio-based Workhorse Group plans to spin SureFly into its own company, and bring this overgrown drone (which will eventually be flown by a computer) to market with a target price of $200,000, offering a 400-pound payload capacity and a range of up to 70 miles. Powered by a modified, 200-horsepower Honda engine that generates electricity for the motors, SureFly sports four motor arms with two propellers on each, a design unveiled at the Paris Air Show and EAA AirVenture in 2017, where AOPA took a close-up look at the concept.
Workhorse Group produces a range of terrestrial electric vehicle products including the all-important battery pack used by the SureFly design. The plan is to start with human pilots aboard, and eventually develop autonomous flight capability and deploy SureFly in emergency medical and air taxi applications. Safety features will include flight control and stabilization systems that can keep the SureFly airborne even if one or more motors fail, enough battery power to land safely in case of combustion engine failure, and a parachute if all else fails.