Is Workhorse’s SureFly The Next Chapter In Helicopter Development?


SureFly is a new type of helicopter that promises to change the way we think about those standard rotorcrafts forever. As Workhorse boldly states on their website, “after 78 years the helicopter is reinvented” and this statement isn’t actually very far from reality. But what is it exactly that makes the SureFly so different from what we are used to seeing in helicopters? Read on to find out…

First of all, SureFly uses 8 propellers that are installed on four arms made of carbon fiber (as is the fuselage) and are powered by eight individual motors. The arms extend on the outer side of the craft, so contrary to the standard helicopter design, the rotor blades aren’t positioned directly above the cockpit. The arms that hold the propellers and motors can be folded, so the SureFly can fit even in a relatively small car garage. Thanks to this revolutionary design there’s no need for a tail that will hold a tilt rotor, so the design and operation becomes simpler and thus safer.

These differences in the flight operation mechanism of the SureFly allow for the implementation of safety features that have never before been seen in a helicopter. For example, SureFly features a ballistic parachute that is placed right in the center of the propeller arms fixture and can open a parachute that will save you from a drop even when you are experiencing a sudden emergency at a very low altitude like 30 meters from the ground. Moreover, SureFly is also equipped with a dual lithium battery pack of a total of 15 kWh, allowing the pilot another 5 minutes of flight time to perform an emergency landing in the case that the gasoline power generator fails, or you simply run out of fuel.

So, the SureFly is a small and safe helicopter that is supposedly easy to fly around but can it perform well enough? According to Workhorse, the gross weight is around 500 kg (1100 lbs) and the SureFly can hold another 180 kg of cargo (400 lbs). At this weight, it will reach a top speed of up to 113 km/h (70 mph), a flight ceiling of 1220 meters (4000 feet), and a flight time of about 60 minutes. This puts the maximum range at approximately 70 miles, so SureFly is intended for short-distance operations like emergency response, urban transportation, and precision agriculture. Finally, it offers enough space for up to two passengers including the pilot which is important for this kind of operations.

Workhorse promises a starter price that won’t go above $200k, while their certification rendezvous with the Federal Aviation Administration is set for late 2019. I really like the idea of a personal helicopter to use in city commuting, and the SureFly definitely looks promising especially on the safety side. If you want to see it from up close, it will be on display at the upcoming Paris Air Show (June 19-25).

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I'm an engineer with a passion for writing about new technologies and the ways they shape our world and amplify our very existence.