Workhorse’s new passenger drone, which hopes to pave the way for autonomous transport solutions, has made history as it takes off with its first passenger for the first time.
SureFly, a division of Workhorse, successfully hovered a foot above ground for a few seconds before touching back down its two-person, eight-rotor air taxi.
The SureFly passenger drone is designed for a short hop application with an estimated 70-mile range and an on-board redundant backup battery system. The SureFly drone was first unveiled at the Paris Air Show in June last year
The SureFly drone completed a successful manned and untethered test hover outside of Cincinnati.
Workhorse is the only company with the necessary FAA experimental certification to test this type of vehicle in the United States, according to the company.
“The mechanics of flying this are completely different than any traditional helicopter or airplane,” said chief operating officer John Graber.
“The pilot in this aircraft is going to tell a computer through a fly-by wire system ‘take me over there’ and the computer’s going to figure out how to do that in a way that is safe and reliable and comfortable.
“It takes the way self-driving cars are making the highways safer, it takes that to aviation,’ Graber continued.”
The drone has eight independent motors that each drive a single carbon fibre propeller. If one of the motors fails, it can still be landed.
The flying taxi also has a petrol generator, and if that should fail it still has five minutes of flying time on a lithium battery. For worst-case scenarios, it comes with a ballistic parachute for safe landing.