Workhorse, which unveiled its four wheel drive plug-in hybrid pickup truck, the W-15, last month at the ACT Expo in Long Beach, has other irons in the electric transportation fire. On June 19, it will unveil its latest creation, the SureFly electric helicopter designed to get people into inaccessible places quickly and easily. “It’s designed to be a short-hop machine. If you can fly a drone, you should be able to fly this,” Steven Burns, CEO of Workhorse says.
On its website, Workhorse describes the SureFly this way: “After 78 years, the helicopter has been reinvented. SureFly is a personal helicopter/VTOL aircraft designed for safe and easy flight. With eight independent motors each driving a single carbon fiber propeller, a backup battery power system, and a ballistic parachute to safely land in the event of emergency, the SureFly provides unparalleled safety for a personal aircraft. SureFly is changing the helicopter industry. Now is the time to discover the affordable, easy-to-pilot, safe answer to personal flight.”
The SureFly electric helicopter has room for two people. Like its W-15 pickup truck, the target audience is utility companies, first responders, and others who need a means of getting critical personnel and services to places that are inaccessible to regular vehicles because of terrain or congestion.
The production model of the Workhorse electric helicopter will be made of carbon fiber to save weight. The company is currently testing a steel prototype at its headquarters near Cincinnati. If the craft goes into production, it will be built at the company’s factory in Union City, Indiana. Burns hopes to have the SureFly flown by a test pilot by the end of this year and is targeting FAA approval by the end of 2019.
Vertical take off and landing aircraft powered by electric motors are suddenly very much in the news. Uber says it is working on flying cars and Lilium, based in Munich, Germany is working on its own version of an electric VTOL machine. “After decades of zero market entrants, there’s a sudden flood of new big ideas,” writes Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis for aerospace and defense consulting company Teal Group. “If Dr. Seuss drew air vehicles, he’d be perfect for these newcomers.”
Workhorse is no stranger to drones. Earlier this year it tested its HorseFly delivery drone which is designed to solve the “last mile” problem that UPS and other delivery companies deal with every day. The theory is that a drone could deliver packages to customers who live at the end of long driveways or dead end streets while the package van goes on to the next stop, saving fuel and time — both critical elements to delivery fleet managers.
Some have questioned whether Workhorse will be able to survive in the highly competitive world of building motor vehicles, but there are similarities between it and a certain startup in Silicon Valley that started out building premium electric cars and now seems poised to put some of those legacy automakers out of business. Steve Burns is focused on the future, not the past, and seems to have it all going on right now. Here’s hoping he can keep it up.
Source: Trucks.com Full Disclosure: the author owns stock in Workhorse.