Workhorse Seeks FAA Approval For SureFly VTOL Hybrid


Electric delivery vehicle company Workhorse, which recently began untethered flight testing of its hybrid-powered SureFly VTOL, is seeking full FAA type approval for the aircraft, Workhorse CEO Steve Burns told AVweb in an exclusive podcast. Although it has not yet been determined which category the aircraft will fall under for the purpose of FAA approval, Burns is hoping for certification in 2020. While he acknowledges that would be record time, he also believes it’s a goal that can be achieved.

So far, the longest the SureFly has been in the air without a tether is 22 seconds. For the piston version—a turbine version is also in development—Workhorse is aiming for a 70-mile range, top speed of 70 MPH, and 400-pound useful load. The aircraft requires a pilot onboard, although the company says autonomy will come later.

Unlike many similar products, Burns says the SureFly is not particularly aimed at the air taxi market. Instead, he envisions it taking on emergency response, personal transport, precision agriculture or military support missions. The SureFly is powered by a fossil fuel generator paired with a small lithium battery. According to Workhorse, the battery is also capable of providing five minutes of backup power in the event of a generator failure. As an additional safety measure, the SureFly is equipped with a whole-aircraft parachute system.

Workhorse’s core business is electric trucks—its largest customer is UPS—although SureFly isn’t the company’s first venture into aerial transport. Workhorse also developed the Horsefly drone, which is designed to launch from the top of its trucks. Burns points out that this background has allowed the company to bring a lot of experience with both lithium batteries and drone technology to the SureFly. According to Burns, the decision to go the hybrid route stems from the feeling that lithium technology isn’t quite ready to be the only power source for a vehicle like the one it is developing.

For those interested in seeing the aircraft in action, the company plans to bring the SureFly to Oshkosh for this year’s AirVenture. Purchase price for the piston version is expected to come in at about $200,000.