DETROIT—It looks a giant blue toy (although yes, the one pictured above is white). It’s actually a two-seat, eight rotor, carbon fiber, hybrid-electric helicopter—for personal use.
The drone-like “octocopter”—with no tail rotor it’s not technically a helicopter—is manufactured by Workhorse (WKHS), which makes electric trucks, aircraft, and drone. It’s currently on display at the Detroit Auto Show.
It isn’t ready for prime time just yet. It flies, but the floor model only has about 12 hours of time in the air. FAA certification is more than two years away, the company representative at the show said.
Still, it’s an impressive sight. And an unexpected one at an event dedicated to cars. The two carbon fiber rotors on each of the drone’s four arms spin opposite each other for increased air stability. It can stay aloft on one tank (of gasoline) for 2.5 hours. Maximum speed is 80 miles an hour. The entire contraption at the show weighs 1,500 pounds. The curb weight of a Ford Explorer is about 4,500 pounds. Editors' Choice Jack Bogle, Legendary Index Fund Inventor, Dies at 89 What a Top Income-Tax Rate of 70% Would Mean for the Economy Cisco Is Heading for Serious Growth and the Stock Could Pop
We asked the Workhorse rep at the show, who jokingly referred to it as a “rich guy drone,” how difficult it is to fly: “If you can fly a drone, you can fly this.” That’s comforting, but the stakes feel higher with one’s own body inside the drone. It comes equipped with a parachute.
The drone—which yes, isn’t technically a drone since it’s not unmanned—doesn’t have to be marketed exclusively for personal use. There are potential applications for law enforcement or merchandise delivery. But at targeted price of $200,000 per unit, it’s likely that well-off executives will use it to shorten their commutes.