Earlier this week, the Workhorse Group, a Columbus, Ohio based startup showed off a drone-like craft with a 2 person passenger compartment at the North American Auto Show in the city of Detroit, MI. Named the SureFly Octocopter, the craft is largely computer controlled, unlike a helicopter which requires a highly trained pilot to operate multiple controls simultaneously.
Steve Burns, who is the founder and CEO of the Workhorse Group, emphasized that anyone who can operate a drone can easily fly the Surefly Octocopter. That’s because the 4-arm craft, which closely resemble a DJI drone, similarly comes with two controls only. To operate the SureFly Octocopter, all you have to do is use the throttle control (which adjusts speed) to lift off or land and turn the joystick-like control in order to point in the destination of your choice. With a total of 8 motors for improved safety and stability, the drone-like craft has a range of around 75 miles at a speed of 75 mph. It is rated to carry up to 400 pounds of cargo.
With flying drone prototypes already taking to the sky (such as the 5 seat Uber taxi showed off by Bell last week), Steve Burns hopes that the SureFly Octocopter will be the first craft of its kind to receive the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification. Built out of carbon fiber, except for the landing skids which are built out of aluminum, SureFly is intended to make flying not only easy but also affordable and safe. According to Steve Burns, his company aims at proving that the drone-like craft is much safer to use in order to get to a certain destination than it is to drive there.
Burns also hopes that the FAA will allow this simpler version of a helicopter to be operated by anyone with a sport Pilot license, which requires just a fraction of the flight work and training of a standard pilot license. Unlike a helicopter which is quite difficult to fly and expensive, the SureFly is both easy to fly and relatively affordable. The drone-like craft is expected to cost about $200k, but buyers could be paying less if the company manages to simplify the process of manufacturing carbon fiber. The Workhorse Group is already taking orders from potential customers who want to park this craft at their homes. All that is needed at this time is a $1,000 deposit.
The Workhorse Group has already been providing UPS with some electric delivery vans and recently received $35 million in secured funding from the New York City based global investment advisor Marathon Asset Management.