Bell rings in the new year by revealing its autonomous VTOL aircraft at the Consumer Electronics Show. President and CEO Mitch Snyder says travel by air taxi will be a reality by the mid 2020s.
Bell unveiled its vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) autonomous air taxi at a press event at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas today. The Bell Nexus, named to signify the convergence of transport and technology and of comfort and convenience, will enter service as part of the Uber Elevate initiative, which plans to launch fleets of electric VTOL aircraft in Dallas, Los Angeles and an unnamed international market by the mid 2020s.
Bell, which, according to president and CEO Mitch Snyder, dropped Helicopters from its name to better reflect its focus on creating opportunities in urban air mobility, showcased a version of its air taxi cabin concept at CES last year. This year, the company will display an updated, full-scale mockup of the hybrid-electric powered vehicle, equipped with six tilting ducted fans.
While Bell is leading the design, development and production of the Bell Nexus, it’s collaborating with Safran (hybrid propulsion and drive systems), EPS (energy storage systems), Thales (Flight Control Computer hardware and software), Moog (flight control actuation systems) and Garmin (avionics and the vehicle management computer) to bring the on-demand mobility solution to market.
📣 [#Announcement] @ #CES2019, @Bellflight revealed the full scale configuration of its vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) air taxi vehicle, which leverages Thales flight control architecture, hardware and software capabilities: https://t.co/j9TUel1mjr pic.twitter.com/CvKO9Z8QbA
— Thales Canada (@ThalesCanada) January 7, 2019
Room for One More
The Bell Nexus is a four-passenger vehicle with space for a pilot or mission manager. “The aircraft is designed to be fully automated,” Snyder announced at today’s press conference. “Once the regulatory authorities and community accept that it’s ok to not have a pilot, then it will be a five-passenger vehicle.”
Bell will also have a flight simulator at CES this year in order to determine how the average person might operate the Bell Nexus. “We want to see what’s intuitive for people to learn how to fly these as opposed to just pilots,” Snyder explained.
Coming Soon to a City Near You
Bell aims to make air taxis that are safe, quiet and affordable. “We’re still working with Uber to determine the cost of traveling in the vehicle but it’s going to be more affordable than you think,” Snyder said. “The ability of these aircraft to [complete] multiple trips within an hour window allows you to work the economics in a favorable way,” added Michael Thacker, Bell’s executive vice-president of Technology and Innovation.
“It’s going to be more affordable than you think.” – Mitch Snyder, Bell
While Bell is working closely with Uber, Thacker insists that the company is setting its sights even further. “We are taking Uber’s specifications into consideration, but this vehicle actually goes beyond what the Uber specifications require,” he said. “While Uber is one of the potential applications, it’s not the only one.”
Snyder and Thacker are optimistic about the timeline. “Defining and developing urban air mobility is a complex undertaking, requiring collaboration across industries, regulatory agencies and other communities of interest,” Snyder said. “Although there is still a lot of work to be done, the future is real, it’s possible, and it’s coming soon.”