Huge two-seater "drone" aims to reinvent the helicopter

22 June 2017

The SureFly two-seater octocopter is unveiled at the Paris Air Show ahead of test flights later this year. Matthew Stock reports.            The two-seater octocopter is designed for 'short hop' journeys, with a range of about 70 miles on a single tank.  It will reach altitudes of about 4,000 ft. and hit speeds of up to 70 miles per hour.

STEPHEN BURNS, FOUNDER & CEO OF WORKHORSE: "It's basically a massive drone... What we're trying to do here is reinvent the helicopter, bring the helicopter down to where more of an average person can use it. So it's designed to be super safe, it has a gasoline generator that generates electricity for eight electric motors directly coupled to the props. But should that generator fail, we have five minutes of lithium batteries to get you down safely. And on top of that, if everything else fails, we have a ballistic parachute right in the middle."

The propeller arms are retractable, reducing Surefly's size to about that of a large car.  Unlike a helicopter, far less training will be needed to get a licence.

STEPHEN BURNS, FOUNDER & CEO OF WORKHORSE: "We're hoping to get certified as a light sport aircraft - 20 hours of training, and if you can fly a drone, you can fly this... We built it to be super easy to fly, that was the main design element we went for. It's very much like a drone. It's complete fly-by-wire, it has a joystick for directional control. A forward push of this angles the vehicle, all automatically the computer does everything, keeps you balanced and drives you forward. Left-right, and then for up and down there's a button for changing your altitude."

The SureFly made its public debut - albeit grounded - at this week's Paris Air Show. Maiden test flights should take place this year, with Workhorse confident of U.S. approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. They're aiming for market in 2019 with a target price of 200,000 dollars.