Workhorse Spins Off Surefly Octocopter In Separate Business

The aircraft will make its first public flight at CES.

Workhorse

From electric delivery vans, to a plug-in hybrid pickup truck, to experiments with drone delivery, the Workhorse Group has a very diverse array of interests. But the company's various projects may have pulled it in too many different directions.

Workhorse is spinning off its aviation division, which is currently working on a small helicopter called the SureFly, into a separate company. The new entity, called SureFly Inc., will take over Workhorse's aviation assets, including the eponymous aircraft. Workhorse will retain assets related to the HorseFly delivery drone, although it plans to grant SureFly a royalty-free perpetual license for uses not related to delivering packages from ground vehicles. That's something Workhorse is already working on, and it wants to keep the business to itself.

SureFly is currently a wholly-owned subsidiary of Workhorse, which will retain some of the new company's stock. More stock will be distributed to current Workhorse investors, and the rest will go to new third-party investors. Workhorse hopes the spinoff will help generate more cash, and allow it to focus more on its core truck business.

The SureFly aircraft is smaller than a typical helicopter, but Workhorse has said it will offer greater operational flexibility and safety. The unorthodox eight-rotor design is supposed to provide added redundancy and protect against the "death spin" that can occur when conventional helicopters lose power. The octocopter is expected to make its first public flight at CES 2018 in Las Vegas.

Power comes courtesy of eight electric motors, one for each rotor. A 200-horsepower Honda gasoline engine acts as a generator, much like the internal-combustion engine in a Chevrolet Volt or Karma Revero. The SureFly has a top speed of just 50 mph and a range of 70 miles, but Workhorse has said real-world flights will average no more than 10 miles.

The SureFly aircraft will initially be human-piloted, but the goal is to eventually make it autonomous. Workhorse previously said it hoped to achieve full Federal Aviation Administration certification by 2019.