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SureFly to Make First Public Flight Tuesday

By James Wynbrandt

July 22, 2018 - SureFly, the next-generation, in-development personal multicopter that debuted on display at the fly-in last year, will make its first public flight on the Oshkosh flightline Tuesday afternoon, July 24, 2018. Steve Burns, CEO of Workhorse Group, which is creating SureFly, called the upcoming milestone display, “More of a demo hover than demo flight.” Burns added, “Balancing to hover is the hardest thing to do,” for the aircraft — and the largest hurdle on the road to its commercial development.

Made of lightweight carbon fiber, the SureFly airframe weighs less than 300 pounds. Four arms extending outward above the cabin of the two-place aircraft each contain two motors (eight in total) driving counter-rotating propellers. Unlike a helicopter, Burns said the SureFly is simple and easy to operate. For forward motion, power to the rearward motors is simply increased, eliminating the need for a complicated transition from vertical to horizontal motion, as tilt rotors require.

The hybrid-powered aircraft uses both fossil fuel and battery-supplied electricity. An engine drives two generators in parallel that power the electric motors turning the propellers, while the battery provides the power needed for the rapid changes to the motors’ rpm required to keep the craft balanced. In the event of a failure of the gas engine, a lithium ion battery provides sufficient power for a safe landing from 4,000 feet or lower. There’s also a ballistic recovery chute as further backup.

Workhorse, a publicly traded company, makes electric delivery trucks, and had no experience in aviation prior to this project. The FAA has already accepted the company’s type certificate application for SureFly, which will be produced in piston- and turbine-engine variants. Here in Oshkosh, the company is taking $1,000 deposits for the piston version, which will be priced around $200,000, Burns said.

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