Transportation innovation: Delivery drones for humans

Have flying cars arrived at last? And to think, this all started with a company's electric delivery truck and package-carrying drone. Electric pickup and medium-duty van manufacturer Workhorse Group says its new SureFly 8-rotor helicopter is ready to zip two passengers into and out of cities — or just about anywhere within a 70-mi. round trip.

What's more, the company expects it'll set you back less than a Tesla. (Tesla vehicles start at just over $100,000, for comparison's sake.)

The Workhorse SureFly is scheduled to make its official debut at the Paris Air Show June 19-25. The company has put particular emphasis this year on introducing new products; the SureFly comes on the heels of Workhorse's W-15 460-hp electric pickup truck unveiled in May (see photo below).

The SureFly personal helicopter boasts an 8-rotor, enlarged delivery drone-type design, operates on gasoline or electric power, and has a folded-down "parked" size about as big as a Class 1-3 pickup truck. It can fly as high as 4,000 ft. up and has a top speed of about 70 mph, according to the company's preliminary specs. Workhorse developed its knowledge base of such flying machines via its HorseFly autonomous-flying package-delivery drone, which was announced several years ago and successfully completed usage/ feasibility tests in early 2017.

The SureFly always turns its rotors with electric power. Its gasoline engine runs for about an hour on a full tank, and directly turns generators that provide power to the SureFly's electric motors driving the aircraft's eight rotors/ propellers. Should the gasoline engine fail or run out of gas, battery power aboard the SureFly will give you five minutes of flight time to set the helicopter down safely.

Note limitations of the SureFly: with its curb weight of 1,100 lbs. and max takeoff weight of 1,500 lbs., that allows for a combined weight of passengers and any cargo of no more than 400 lbs. for this bug to get airborne.

We can't say no one saw this coming. Futurist Jim Carroll, for one, predicted that a "next step" potential game-changer for the freight-delivery and/or larger transportation industry could be human-carrying drones.

Plugging the SureFly, Workhorse Group has this to say:

"The time has come. After 78 years, the helicopter has been reinvented. SureFly is a personal helicopter/VTOL [vertical take-off and landing] aircraft designed for safe and easy flight.

"With eight independent motors each driving a single carbon fiber propeller, a backup battery power system, and a ballistic parachute to safely land in the event of emergency, the SureFly provides unparalleled safety for a personal aircraft."

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