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?