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Workhorse Receives FAA Certification for Flying Car Test Flight at CES 2018

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【Summary】The cutting-edge quadcopter, which is powered by a hybrid motor, seats two passengers and comes with a range of 70 miles.

Michael Cheng    Jan 10, 2018 11:57 AM PT
Workhorse Receives FAA Certification for Flying Car Test Flight at CES 2018
author: Michael Cheng   

During the 2017 Paris Air Show, Workhorse Surefly, a startup that specializes in aerial transportation units, unveiled its plans to build a flying car. The cutting-edge quadcopter, which is powered by a hybrid motor, seats two passengers and comes with a range of 70 miles.

At the moment, most of the company's competitors are busy finalizing designs for their prototype units. Workhorse is steps ahead of the group, as it recently acquired FAA certification (Experimental Airworthiness Certificate) to conduct testing for its robust aircraft.

The first test flight for the hybrid quadcopter will take place at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Cleared for Testing

The clearance certificate is for the company's first flying car – a compact, commercial aircraft that seats two adults and is capable of transporting payloads up to 400 pounds. A total of eight propellers (on four extended arms) are utilized for aerial navigation. A joystick controller inside the cabin allows simple steering and navigation.

The hybrid quadcopter will come with a price tag of $200,000, when it rolls out to commercial markets. At this price range, most of the startup's customers will likely be businesses that are interested in supplementing existing operations with a reliable flying car. This may include large-scale mining (traveling from one mining location to another), emergency medical services and military missions.

With such applications in mind, the quadcopter isn't exactly ideal for cruising around the city or daily, urban commutes. Instead, it is appropriate for lugging around heavy cargo in a timely manner. For example, a local hospital may opt to send a human organ for an emergency medical transplant procedure at a temporary camp site using a Workhorse hybrid aircraft.

It is important to highlight that the flying car will receive full certification in 2019. Workhorse's competitor, China-based Ehang, also received an Experimental Airworthiness Certificate from the FAA (in 2016). The startup plans to use the certificate to deploy pilot programs in Nevada.

Autonomous and Fully Electric Flights

According to the business, initial aircraft models must be operated by a pilot. However, in the future, Workhorse clarified it is working on an autonomous solution for flight management and operation. By removing the need to hire a human pilot to navigate the quadcopter, which come with extra costs and space limitations, customers would be more inclined to use the company's aircrafts.

"Workhorse is based in Ohio. It designs and builds high performance battery-electric vehicles, which includes trucks and aircraft. The company said it also offers cloud-based, real-time telematics performance-monitoring systems that are fully integrated with its vehicles," explained SL Fuller from Aviation Today.

Before upgrading its systems for autonomous flight, the startup will likely first transition to fully electric motors. The current hybrid propulsion system relies on a combination of petrol and electric power, with a backup lithium-ion power cell for emergencies. This proprietary hybrid system can be found in the company's line of range-extended battery electric trucks. Such solutions reduce the requirement of large battery packs, resulting in lightweight transportation.

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