Workhorse's newly approved passenger drone free to fly at CES
We've been keeping a keen eye on the progress of the Workhorse SureFly since it emerged at the Paris Air Show in June, and now the stage is set for its big debut. The two-seat octocopter is preparing to make its first test flight, after receiving official approval from the authorities to lift off at CES in Las Vegas next week.
Like a number of personal flying machines currently in the works, the SureFly promises to autonomously carry folks from point A to B, though its first models will be pilot operated by way of a joystick controller.
While other air taxis such as the Volocopter, Ehang and Autonomous Passenger Drone rely on electric motors, the hybrid SureFly brings petrol into the mix for a range of approximately 70 miles (112 km). It relies on a total of eight contra-rotating propellors fixed to four arms to lift a maximum of 400 lb (180 kg).
Workhorse announced today that it has received an Experimental Airworthiness Certificate for SureFly from the Federal Aviation Administration, enabling it to kick off test flights at CES. It will be interesting to see whether these are open for public viewing and have anyone onboard. The company said these flights would be manned when it first announced them back in November, although there is no mention of that in the latest press release.
Either way it is a promising step, because the flying taxi space is a place where a lot of bold claims get made. Although the Ehang drone received an Airworthiness Certificate from the FAA in June 2016 with plans to start testing in Nevada, it has been unsighted since. The Volocopter can be seen in videos taking unmanned flights over Dubai, and the Dubai Media Office media office says trials will take place over the coming five years, but hey, it says a lot of things ...
Workhorse's word does carry some weight. For starters, it is working on other vehicles like electric pickup trucks, vans that launch drones from the roof, and one developed together with global shipping giant UPS. And the engines used in its SureFly aircraft are already used in BMWs i3 and C600 super scooter.
The company is hoping to receive full FAA approval in late 2019, so how readily all of this translates to a near-term flying taxi, well we're going to have to wait and see. CES kicks of next Monday, January 8.