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SureFly Hybrid Electric Helicopter To Fly 'Soon'

Jan 8, 2018

Article

Light rain thwarted the planned maiden flight of electric vehicle maker Workhorse's SureFly two-seat hybrid electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) urban passenger vehicle on Monday afternoon at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Last week, Workhorse received an experimental airworthiness certificate and approval for the flight from the FAA. The company expects to fly the eVTOL "soon."

SureFly features a drone-like octocopter design, a two-person, 400-pound payload capacity and a range of approximately 70 miles. The aircraft is powered by a fossil-fueled generator linked to a parallel bank of battery packs offering redundant power and eliminating the need for long battery recharging times between flights.

Its electrical system powers motors linked to four propeller arms, each with two contra-rotating propellers. The batteries can power the motors if the generator fails. In addition, the airframe has a ballistic parachute.

SureFly was unveiled at the Paris Air Show in June. Late last month, Workhorse announced its intention to spin off SureFly into a separate company. Under terms of the deal, Workhorse plans to issue $5.75 million worth of notes that it anticipates can be exchanged into preferred stock and common stock warrants of SureFly Inc. with a valuation of $33 million.

Last year, Workhorse executive Patrick Connors told AIN that he expected the SureFly certification program to cost approximately $40 million and that individual SureFly aircraft would have a target price of $200,000. Connors said the company had yet to select the final generator engine for the aircraft, but he estimated that the company needs to find an engine that generates 300 hp and weighs only 200 pounds.That means an internal-combustion rotary engine or a small turbine akin to what is found in auxiliary power units on corporate jets.

While Workhorse has extensive experience with battery-powered vehicles, Connors noted that current batteries are too heavy and take too long to charge to be practical for daily use in the eVTOL mission. Emerging technology from major automakers such as Toyota might change this in the coming years, he added, but for now, “hybrid is the way to go.”

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