A two-person electric helicopter shown as a concept last year appears to be taking off.
The “Surefly,” developed by electric-truck maker Workhouse Group, has garnered almost two-dozen advance orders in recent months, no mean feat considering the ‘copter is likely to cost $200,000 a pop, according to marketing director Mike Dektas.
While Ohio-based Workhorse has made its name with its W15 electric work truck, slated to go into production late next year, it increasingly sees itself as a clean transportation provider, not just a truck maker.
That broader view may have helped the company in its latest fund-raising round, which garnered $12 million. That’s enough, said Workhorse chief executive Steve Burns, to tide the company over through March, when it expects to hear on its bid for a massive Postal Service contract.
This week Workhorse is demonstrating the “Horsefly” package delivery drone in Las Vegas, and expects it to be in commercial use in time for the Christmas holiday delivery season, Dektas said.
But the “Surefly” was developed to provide short-hop transportation – from office to airport, for instance, for busy executives and others who can’t stand wasting time in traffic and are willing to pay to avoid it.
While no production schedule has been established, the company already has taken 22 orders for the helicopter, with $2,000 refundable deposits. The first test flight with human passengers will be conducted later this year, said Burns.
“I think it will be our No. 1 product in terms of revenue,” he said.
The Surefly uses a gasoline generator to provide electrical power to its eight rotors. The company says it can fly for up to an hour and has backup batteries to provide emergency landing power if the gas generator were to fail as well as a parachute to safely land the ‘copter in an extreme “no power” emergency.
In addition to its burgeoning package – and people – delivery business, Workhorse also is one of five finalists for a multi-year contract to provide 180,000 postal delivery vehicles for the U.S. Postal Service.
“If we win that, we’re an entirely different company,” said Burns.
The company, which has more than 5,000 advance orders for the commercial version of its W15 electric pickup, recently started asking on its website whether there is interest in a consumer model.
So far, more than 2,000 people have signed up, said Dektas.