For over 50 years, CES has served as the proving ground for innovators and breakthrough technologies and as of today, they are one of the world’s biggest auto shows in the world. This year at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, there were thousands of exhibitors in attendants that presented to hundreds of thousands domestic and international visitors.
It is here at this years convention that Bell Helicopter unveiled a full-scale vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) air taxi vehicle. The Nexus captures the long-sought-after vision of quick air travel with a unique in-flight experience, keeping passengers connected to their lives and saving valuable time. With roads in major cities becoming increasingly clogged, Uber is proposing one of the more radical solutions to get people point to point in a hurry. Uber wants to launch a flying taxi service by 2023 using these flying machines.
Thought I wished it was called the Korben Dallas, the air taxi (named Bell Nexus) is powered by a hybrid-electric propulsion system and features Bell’s signature powered lift concept incorporating six tilting ducted fans designed to safely and efficiently carry passengers. The Nexus team consists of Bell, Safran, EPS, Thales, Moog and Garmin, who are collaborating on Bell’s VTOL aircraft and on-demand mobility solutions. Bell is leading the design, development and production of the VTOL systems; Safran is providing the hybrid propulsion and drive systems; EPS is providing the energy storage systems; Thales is providing the Flight Control Computer (FCC) hardware and software; Moog is developing the flight control actuation systems; and Garmin is integrating the avionics and the vehicle management computer (VMC).
Alongside the debut of Bell Nexus, Bell will feature the Autonomous Pod Transport (APT). The APT family varies in payload capability that can serve many mission sets such as medical, law enforcement, offshore missions and on-demand delivery services. Bell is expanding into a new industry to show the full spectrum of our capabilities and the real-world challenges APT will address, Bell said in a press release.
As space at the ground level becomes limited, we must solve transportation challenges in the vertical dimension – and that’s where Bell’s on-demand mobility vision takes hold.
– Mitch Snyder, President and CEO, Bell
Bell’s Future Flight Controls simulator was a new experience for CES participants this year. Bell is actively collecting data to help shape the future flight controls of aviation. Data from the simulators will be used to determine what actions and interfaces are intuitive to the average potential operator and what prior experiences and abilities contribute to these opinions.
Urban air travel is coming closer to the masses through recent advancements in technology and software. The critical last step is designing a flight-control ecosystem that allows individuals to safely and efficiently operate urban air vehicles. Whether the Nexus, never mind the Uber air service, will ever get off the ground is far from certain, but the aircraft is one of the biggest and most striking products at CES.