Future technology innovator Workhorse Group announces the company will unveil new concept gas/electric helicopter concept aircraft at Paris Air Show June 19th, 2017.
Workhorse Group, a company that states it is “focused on providing sustainable and cost-effective solutions to the electric transportation sector” announced May 31st, 2017 that the company will unveil its SureFly™ helicopter concept at the Paris Air Show on June 19.
Workhorse already has several concepts in development and production that include the fully electric W15 pickup truck, hybrid electric delivery vans that are already in use with global delivery giant UPS and a concept delivery van/UAS delivery drone deployment unit dubbed the “Horsefly” that completed test deliveries in February of 2017. The company’s Horsefly system incorporates a semi autonomous drone release module that sits atop a regular UPS delivery van that can launch a drone to complete a delivery and return to its base atop the van on completion.
The company continued its development of flight technology recently, resulting in the design and development of what the company hopes to be a game changer in personal helicopter transportation with the impending official launch of the Surefly system in June. “The helicopter has been around for 78 years and is finally being reinvented,” said Stephen Burns, CEO of Workhorse. “We’re excited to unveil the SureFly on the world stage as we believe it represents a major step forward for the global aviation industry. We’ve designed SureFly by leveraging our expertise in battery-electric powered mobility, controls and gas generators to accelerate the speed to market in this sector.”
Workhorse stated in a press release that the goal of SureFly is to be safer and more stable than a typical helicopter due to redundant design, including four propeller arms, two fixed counter-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 aircraft 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. The Surefly will feature a gas combustion engine that generates electricity, while a parallel battery pack offers the redundancy of a backup power source, eliminating the need for long battery charging periods between flights. SureFly is designed to be easy to operate states Workhorse, and is expected to be capable of carrying two passengers up to 70 miles per flight, although the company did not offer information if that flight time is based on just standard combustion engine flight or a combination of standard power and electric backup power to achieve the flight time. It also remains to be seen what the aircraft will offer as far as reserve fuel capacity as required by most certification bodies.
The Surefly’s early models will be pilot-operated, however, the company’s long term goal is to introduce future models capable of autonomous flight with a potential payload capacity of up to 400 pounds. Workhorse is aiming the Surefly at multiple aviation markets that include precision agriculture, emergency response, military applications and those capable of purchasing a luxury personal transport vehicle for commuting. The company plans to begin test flights in 2017 and has set a goal of achieving Federal Aviation Administration certification in late 2019.
With a few key questions still left to answer about this aircraft, it will be interesting to see the initial interest that the company gains at the Paris airshow as we see further development of another entrant into the marketplace of another contender to the unmanned market in the future as the company aims for a slice of the quickly evolving market where the first to certify their platforms will likely play a large part in the initial structure of an industry that is yet to see its first commercially viable entrant certified.
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