US helicopter manufacturer Bell Helicopter presented a vertical take-off and landing aircraft (VTOL) with hybrid-electric propulsion for five passengers at the CES 2019 under the name Bell Nexus. Bell has been cooperating with Uber for their planned flying cab since 2017.
The manufacturer from Fort Worth in the U.S. state of Texas expects the VTOL to be used on a broad basis from the mid-2020s onwards. In Las Vegas, visitors are currently seeing a 1:1 scale model of the air taxi, which offers space for one pilot as an option and otherwise for four passengers. Thanks to six swivelling rotors, the Bell Nexus can take off and load vertically and switches to horizontal flight mode once it has reached the desired altitude.
“As space at the ground level becomes limited, we must solve transportation challenges in the vertical dimension,” said Mitch Snyder, President and CEO of Bell. And that’s where Bell’s on-demand mobility comes in. “We believe that our design, together with our strategic infrastructure approach, will lead to a successful implementation of Bell Nexus,” he says.
Bell works with specialists from Safran, EPS, Thales, Moog and Garmin to develop the VTOL. While the Texans have created the VTOL system, Safran is responsible for propulsion, Thales for IT flight control, Moog for adjustment systems and Garmin for the integration of avionics and vehicle management computers.
Independently of this, Bell is also involved in the development of an air taxi under the umbrella of Uber Elevate. With the Elevate project that they launched in 2016, Uber wants to establish an urban transport network of electrically powered aircraft and is planning its first test flights in Los Angeles, Dallas and Dubai from 2020. The company plans to start commercial operations three years later. The aim is to place aircraft from various manufacturers on the Uber platform.
Although there are still a lot of legal barriers to get through before flying taxis the ground, the company hopes to have its first test flights of the airborne electric cars in early 2020.