Watch Drone Taxi "SureFly" Lift Off In Its First Manned Flight

The era of flying taxis could be near. As we explained in March, more than a dozen drone and flying automobile manufacturers have already passed conceptualization/design phase, and a majority of the manufacturers are currently exiting the prototype stage into the testing phase, with most manufactures targeting launch/delivery by 2020.

“If safety and regulatory hurdles are cleared, passenger drones are expected to get wings by 2018–2020, and traditional flying cars by 2020–2022, while revolutionary vehicles could be a reality only by 2025,” Deloitte reported.

In particular, Workhorse Group Inc., an Ohio-based passenger drone startup, could be flying into the lead with their latest drone field test. The company unveiled its Surefly, a vertical-take-off-and-landing (VTOL) drone designed to carry human passengers, at the Paris Air Show last summer, and has since sent it into the air with a pilot inside for the first time.

Workhorse Group describes the details surrounding SurFly’s maiden voyage, which occurred last week in the Cincinnati, Ohio region.

“SureFly the personal helicopter/EVTOL aircraft designed for safe and easy flight – completely conceived, designed, built and tested in America by Workhorse – has taken flight, completing its first successful, manned, untethered hover outside of Cincinnati. This video is a progress report of the past few months’ work leading up to lift off.

Workhorse is the only company with the necessary FAA experimental certification to test this type of vehicle in the United States. The team is working closely with the FAA, which had a representative on site for the test.”

According to the company’s website, SureFly is a two-seater octocopter with a hybrid gasoline piston engine which drives dual generators to provide power to eight prop motors. The aircraft weights roughly 1,100 pounds, with the ability carry 400 pounds over a maximum range of 70 miles.

Workhorse believes their flying taxi could be up and running by 2020, though technical and regulatory issues have been significant headwinds for them in the past. Recently, the company was granted the only FAA experimental certification to test this type of vehicle in the United States, which could accelerate their program towards commercialization much quicker than their competitors like Uber.

Speaking to Digital Trends, Workhorse CEO Steve Burns said their flying drone could have a wide variety of uses. He told Digital Trends that the drone is affordable and priced much cheaper than a typical helicopter, which he went into some detail on how exactly the average American could get their hands on these flying machines:

” It’s designed to be less expensive, safer, and easier to fly than a helicopter. The reason that everyone doesn’t currently have a helicopter in their garage is because of those three issues. We think that if you can have something moderately priced, easy enough that anyone can fly, and that people will feel safe in, there are tons of applications.

It could be a farmer checking on his cattle; it could be an emergency responder able to get to the scene of an accident faster than a road ambulance; it could be military, an air taxi, or just someone wanting to avoid traffic in the city. There are a lot of uses for a short-hop electric flying machine.”

While the all-important field test takes SureFly one step closer towards commercialization, Boeing and other major corporations are right behind them pouring billions into the development of flying taxi drones. Will this trend be another bubble, as we have seen many in this Central-Bank-free-money-anything-goes-induced environment, or is there something legitimate here?

Comments

Stackers any_mouse Sun, 05/06/2018 - 16:05 Permalink

Complete horse shit. Anyone that thinks flying cars will ever mainstream in our life time needs to take a 20' boat out in 3' seas off shore to have a wake up call as to what it feels like to be in mother natures ball park playing by her rules. and as far as FAA Experimental "certification" you can put a weedeater engine on a kite and get "experimental" sign-off - literally.... unless they plan on selling this thing to licensed pilots as DIY kit, they have decades worth of certification hurdles to cross, much less the completely non existing certification regulations for transporting people via autonomous computers...

In reply to by any_mouse

FrankDrakman RAT005 Sun, 05/06/2018 - 22:26 Permalink

I don't know where you morons live, but in Toronto, it takes ~1 hr to drive the 20 miles from Richmond Hill to King and Bay during peak times. If this thing can reach 100 mph/160 km/h, you could make that trip in 12 minutes. Even if you were only taking people south in the morning and north at night, that's 20 pax/day at $50/ride (what you'd pay for a taxi). So, 1,000/day for 250 days a year.

So a lot depends on cost, but if the machine is 250k and has a five year useful life, that's 50k/year amortized. I'm pretty sure with $200k a year in cash flow, I could afford staff, gas, and landing fees.

In reply to by RAT005

MEFOBILLS FrankDrakman Sun, 05/06/2018 - 22:45 Permalink

A regular helicopter:  1) Expensive Turbine engine  2) Expensive high speed gearbox, with prop shaft to the rear of craft  3) Expensive swash plates and connecting rods to "flap" the main rotors.

There are lots of moving parts and precise manufacturing to a regular helicopter.  Highly expensive and maintenance intensive.

 

This new design:  1) Electric motors (few moving parts) and high reliability.  2) A gas powered generator, where said generator is probably running in the middle of its performance band = high reliability.  3) Software to control rotor speed by controlling electrical speed controllers.

This new design is no bull-shit, so you naysayers need to come up with a better argument against it.

Where are the engineers and scientists - am I the only one?

  

 

In reply to by FrankDrakman

CRM114 Stackers Sun, 05/06/2018 - 16:36 Permalink

The FAA is perfectly happy giving experimental licenses to people who aren't going to damage anyone but themselves (I speak from experience: "Just don't fly over built-up areas" the nice FAA man said). This is great for innovation, and in keeping with the American attitude to personal freedom. However, when it comes to making commercial machines for Joe Public, the scrutiny and regulations get real serious, and rightly so.

The problem with aviation is that it gets dangerous before it gets scary, which means by the time Joe Public realizes he might be f#cked, he IS f#cked.

 

Stackers' example of a small boat is a very good one. Sailing is something which generally gets scary before it gets dangerous and is therefore a safer way to make the point about the capriciousness of Mother Nature. You don't need to license people to sail across the Atlantic (I've done that too). Joe Public, on average, inherently realizes it's suicidal unless you know what you are doing.

 

The real problem at the moment is that Joe Public doesn't realize that mixing smartphones and driving is, statistically speaking, the dumbest transportation idea ever. FFS, all the auto ads are actually promoting it. I despair....

 

In reply to by Stackers

snblitz Stackers Sun, 05/06/2018 - 20:28 Permalink

The fundamental problem is the fuel consumption.

Commuting by car to my work takes about 1 gallon of fuel each way.

Flying in a tiny helicopter would probably take 18 gallons round trip.

And helicopters are more aerodynamic than quads.

How about we talk operating cost per hour?

Cars are around $12 per hour.  Small helicopters (Innovator Mosquito) are probably $75 per hour and medium size helicopters (Robinson R22) are around $150 per hour.

Let us say it takes me 60 minutes to drive and 30 minutes to fly to work in my self-flying Mosquito helicopter.

That is $24 vs $75 per day round trip. $528 vs $1650 per month.

Might be doable.  And while I am legally allowed to fly helicopters in and out of my property, landing private helicopters in Silicon Valley is banned except for airports. Which obviates the time factor because now I must drive to and from the airport the rest of the way to work.

Now keep in mind I am the owner of the helicopter in this scenario.

If it was a heli-taxi it would also have to cover the costs associated with flying to me and returning to a dispatch point twice each day.

In reply to by Stackers

Couchtycoon duo Sun, 05/06/2018 - 16:56 Permalink

Ultra Light? As wacky as it sounds this is a good design (gas motor powering batteries which power electric motors). normal Car gas has a high energy content vs weight and since the engine is just used to charge the batteries the engine can run at peak efficiency all the time. Also having the engine constantly charge the batteries allows the batteries to be much smaller and lighter then using the Efficiency of an electric motor which is nearly 100% could actually make this aircraft viable. With the engine charging the batteries you would not be stuck on the ground for 3 hrs every time it needs to charge. Drone flight computers these days are about 3''x 3'' x 1/4'' complete with GPS, Barometric(Altimeter)  Magnetometer (Heading) and accelerometers (attitude)

https://hobbyking.com/en_us/afroflight-naze32-acro-funfly-controller.ht…

 

If this thing could stay airworthy this could be it (but you still need a Pilot License )

In reply to by duo

DemandSider r0mulus Sun, 05/06/2018 - 18:43 Permalink

The way progress is supposed to work in a free market is that labor becomes too expensive, as their quality of life improves, so capital invests in new things, some of which labor buys with their added income. Unfortunately, we have the most manipulated markets in our history, so it doesn't work like that, anymore. Today, the dollar is purposefully over valued for banks, and East Asians, especially The PRC, employ extreme centralization, including government ownership of the means of production, to get petrodollars so they can buy oil and grow. Then, confounding all industrial policy wisdom, our government subsidizes the export of low value added commodities like hogs, wood, trash, and other 18th century products. As a result, farmers throughout the third world lose their farms due to American subsidized aquifer exports, and head straight for Wall Streets maguiladoras, where they are busy making the things the former American middle class used to make.

So, naturally, the American middle class is broke. The cycle is broken. So, who's going to buy these things? There are fewer cars sold today, even though we have millions more consumers, and many more women driving, than decades ago. My guess is the FIRE sector parasites that caused all this would rather travel above the burgeoning enraged mobs they've created.

In reply to by r0mulus

Couchtycoon Juggernaut x2 Sun, 05/06/2018 - 17:16 Permalink

The Osprey has a problem , settling into it's own wake (down wash) during landing which is made worse by the short rotor/propeller blades. Settling with power i think it's called. I am not sure why this dose not affect drones (possibly it does) but it the motor was ducted it might solve that issue. I would worry mostly about one of those pylons getting an electrical Short with both motors on one corner gone I don't thine a parachute will save you.

In reply to by Juggernaut x2

stacking12321 Crash N. Burn Mon, 05/07/2018 - 18:07 Permalink

that's exactly what it sounds like.

and yes, it may be an expensive taxi, but there would definitely be some situations where someone would pay $250 to go a few miles rather than sit in congested traffic for hours.

and yes things do go wrong sometimes, that's just part of life. if you drive down the highway, you are taking a risk. you just have to assess the risk.

the video says if the engine goes out, there's 5 minutes of battery backup to land, and even if that fails, there's an emergency parachute.

might be relatively safe, or might not be. that said, i wouldn't plan to be on of the first passengers.

In reply to by Crash N. Burn

Masher1 stacking12321 Sun, 05/06/2018 - 17:30 Permalink

Ok, If there is an event that damages the upper or lower rotor what are the chances that rotors on that pylon don't both get damaged?

Every spinning blade increases the liability as well, What sane insurance carrier is going to accept this sort of potential danger?

 

This machine is just a single accident away from being banned, One human losing their head is a serious potential to have to make into a risk model in my opinion. How many controls and protections are in place to allow a helicopter to operate?, This story is ignoring all the dangers one can be exposed without even being involved in the operations of it, Just being a pedestrian could cause you to be killed by a mechanical failure of this unit flying some consumer to their mall to shop... I doubt the benefit will ever outweigh the very real risks of such a device being operated in public.. Liability is a bitch for any developer of this sort of technology... That is a truth they never bring up in the promotion of this path of development.

 

The hazard of flying cars or transports will have a ton of development to overcome the risk of death of innocent bystanders.

In reply to by stacking12321

Masher1 Twee Surgeon Sun, 05/06/2018 - 19:39 Permalink

Every single year there is a new story trying to sell the idea of a flying car or some such, I had a Popular Mechanics with an advert for a mini copter from the 70's and you know what... Insurance issues are not going away... Eventually you will have to deal with the dangers of operation of ANY transport that could do harm to others, That plain ans simple fact will have the flying car over a barrel for a very long time, The dangers of Mid air accidents and in flight failures is a huge mountain to climb with a product like this... I do not doubt there is a heap of uses for a device like this but the idea that  it will be a transporter for humans that will operate in an urban environment chock full of overhead wires and many other obstructions is not seeing the complexity of the operation, even if you could mitigate the danger of the moving parts and the untrained operators the environment has tons of dangers, Bird strikes a easy one to see, even small birds would pose a serious risk, those birds will have the same operational space as this craft and that would have to be a part of the design thinking, As it is nothing is going to stop the "Hit wire/Pole" or "Hit bird", "Severe Gusting" crashes from shitting on the whole thing after only a short time in operation forget the chopped up on takeoff or landing/Crashing dangers... I dig tech more than most but the only point to this story is to drive more development funds into the Military uses of this sort of craft, Fuck that them boys have too much shit to fuck humans up with as it is...

In reply to by Twee Surgeon

MaxThrust Blue Steel 309 Sun, 05/06/2018 - 21:00 Permalink

No your right they will be allowed but owned by the Deepstate. These will be autonomous units armed with weapons to keep people like you in your house and you won't be in a position to complain about the noise. In fact you will tell yourself you actually like the noise because the robot in the heli-taxi decided not to hose down your dwelling each time it visits your street.

welcome to the future of Skynet. Their motto [ we make noise and you will like it]

In reply to by Blue Steel 309