Huge two-seater 'drone' aims to reinvent the helicopter

The SureFly two-seater octocopter is unveiled at the Paris Air Show ahead of test flights later this year. It's described by US makers Workhorse as "basically a massive drone" and an easy-to-operate personal flying machine.

PARIS (REUTERS) - SureFly is a drone you can ride - and could reinvent personal transportation. 

The two-seater octocopter is designed for "short hop" journeys, with a range of about 112 miles on a single tank. 

It will reach altitudes of about 1.2 km and hit speeds of up to 112 km per hour. 

"It's basically a massive drone. What we're trying to do here is reinvent the helicopter, bring the helicopter down to where more of an average person can use it. So it's designed to be super safe, it has a gasoline generator that generates electricity for eight electric motors directly coupled to the props. But should that generator fail, we have five minutes of lithium batteries to get you down safely. And on top of that, if everything else fails, we have a ballistic parachute right in the middle," said Stephen Burns, founder and CEO of Workhorse. 

The propeller arms are retractable, reducing Surefly's size to about that of a large car. 

Unlike a helicopter, far less training will be needed to get a licence. 

"We're hoping to get certified as a light sport aircraft - 20 hours of training, and if you can fly a drone, you can fly this. We built it to be super easy to fly, that was the main design element we went for. It's very much like a drone. It's complete fly-by-wire, it has a joystick for directional control. A forward push of this angles the vehicle, all automatically the computer does everything, keeps you balanced and drives you forward. Left-right, and then for up and down there's a button for changing your altitude," said Burns. 

The SureFly made its public debut - albeit grounded - at this week's Paris Air Show. 

Maiden test flights should take place this year, with Workhorse confident of US approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. 

They're aiming for market in 2019 with a target price of S$278,000 dollars.