The 2017 Paris Air Show begins two weeks from now, bringing a rash of new announcements at the bleeding edge of commercial aerospace. Foremost among them this year is a very credible, two-seat flying car.
The 1,100 kg Workhorse Surefly uses an electric quadcopter layout with two contra-rotating propellers on each corner and a range-extending petrol engine, giving it a range of 70 miles and a top speed of 70 mph. The gas engine can then be fueled quickly with petroleum for immediate onward flight.
The Surefly thus could easily become a two-seat sportscar of the skies with a very affordable price tag.
The most comforting factor is the expertise Workhorse has already demonstrated in all the key aspects of the design.
Workhorse already builds range-extended trucks and the Surefly uses the same range-extending BMW 600cc twin-cylinder generator engine as the company's pick-up and step van offerings.
The engine is already in use in BMW products in several ways. In the i3 car, it is used as a range-extender, and the same convenient form-factor of the compact, narrow and flat engine is that it also provides the motive power for BMW's super scooter C600.
In being purposed for range-extending, the characteristics of the motor are considerably revised as the engine serves as a low-emission, high efficiency electricity generator – peak output of the motor is almost halved in the process.
Even more comforting is that the company already makes the commercially available Workhorse HorseFly UAV Delivery system and is thus experienced at developing commercially-available multicopter flight control systems.
The Horsefly is an octocopter delivery drone that docks on the roof of a delivery truck and can autonomously deliver a package then meet up with the mother vehicle at its new location on the delivery route. Workhorse has a proprietary system and has also worked with United Parcel Service (UPS) to incorporate drones into day-to-day delivery operations.
The Horsefly has a 30-minute flight time and can carry a package weighing up to 10 pounds.
There is little more known about the Surefly at this point, but two weeks from now, we expect the two-seater to become yet another prototype promising that affordable personal flight is now tantalizingly close.
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