While it just missed its goal of making its maiden manned voyage at January’s CES event, Ohio-based company Workhorse’s SureFly hybrid-electric helicopter has finally lifted off for its first untethered flight. Well, it got a few feet off the ground, at least.
“A five-foot hover might not seem like a big deal, but what it does is to answer the question: Will it fly, yes or no?” CEO Steve Burns told Digital Trends.
The answer, as Burns is quick to point out, is a resounding yes. That’s exciting because the SureFly octocopter is a new kind of vehicle. It’s essentially a human-sized vertical-take-off-and-landing (VTOL) drone designed for up to two people. Its creators hope that it will both broaden and corner the market when it comes to personal flying machines.
The futuristic-looking SureFly vehicle is driven by eight separate propellers, and powered by a hybrid system that combines a gas combustion engine with a parallel battery pack. It can carry up to 400 pounds, too, which should make this a useful runaround vehicle for transporting a couple of ordinary-sized folks and their belongings. We can’t wait to turn up to the office in one!
“It’s designed to be less expensive, safer, and easier to fly than a helicopter,” Burns said. “The reason that everyone doesn’t currently have a helicopter in their garage is because of those three issues. We think that if you can have something moderately priced, easy enough that anyone can fly, and that people will feel safe in, there are tons of applications. It could be a farmer checking on his cattle; it could be an emergency responder able to get to the scene of an accident faster than a road ambulance; it could be military, an air taxi, or just someone wanting to avoid traffic in the city. There are a lot of uses for a short-hop electric flying machine.”
The all-important liftoff demo takes SureFly one step closer to hitting the market. While there’s still work to be done on both the technical and regulatory side of things (how much training will you need to fly one, for instance?), it’s definitely an exciting milestone. The finished model will retail for around $200,000. That doesn’t make it cheap, by any means, but it’s certainly a whole lot more affordable than the private helicopters that it’s competing with.