While Boeing, Airbus and Lockheed are making huge splashes (and sales) and stealing all the headlines in the opening days of the 2017 Paris Air Show, some smaller companies and aircraft are still getting their share of the spotlight. One such aircraft is the cool and very simple SureFly personal helicopter and VTOL aircraft, which was unveiled by the Workhorse Group in Paris on Monday.
Everything about the SureFly is meant to be as simple as possible to provide a fun, safe flying experience for the pilot and one passenger. While it looks like an ordinary helicopter, the aircraft features four propeller arms, with two fixed contra-rotating propellers on each arm. The SureFly is powered by a gas combustion engine that generates energy, and it is backed up by dual parallel lithium-ion battery packs, which can power the electric motors in the event of engine failure while also cutting down on the time between flights by reducing the need to recharge. It also comes with a ballistic parachute, which, in the worst case scenario, would fire straight up into the air, unaffected by the SureFly’s eight blades, to provide a safe landing.
As for the controls, that’s where the SureFly is at its simplest. A joystick is used to propel the aircraft forward, sideways and yaw, while buttons handle the altitude and the on-board computer adjusts throttle automatically. The computer flight system was designed to “assist the pilot but not replace him,” the Ohio-based company’s CEO, Steve Burns, explained earlier this month, so the SureFly still requires a license. “Since it’s classified as a light-sport craft it only takes 20 hours of [pilot] training. Helicopter training is 1500 hours,” Burns said.
The initial goal for the SureFly is to serve as an air taxi, flying a maximum distance of 70 miles, but the company’s broader vision features autonomous flight that can transport up to 400 pounds, providing advantages in not only city commute, but also agriculture and emergency response. Workhorse is currently taking pre-orders for the SureFly with a targeted price of less than $200,000.