Bell’s autonomous pod eVTOL makes first test flight


Bell’s functionally-named Autonomous Pod Transport 70 has made its maiden autonomous flight at the company’s testing site near Fort Worth, Dallas.

The eVTOL (electrical vertical takeoff and and landing) aircraft will be flight tested under an experimental type certificate throughout the remainder of the year at the site.

Scott Drennan, vice president of innovation at Bell Textron said, “We are excited to reach this milestone, and look forward to continuing to advance this technology for our customers.

“The APT is designed to be capable of various mission sets, from package delivery to critical medical transport to disaster relief. We believe this capability will change the way unmanned aerial systems are used commercially in the future.”

Advanced Pod Transport 70 (APT 70) is part of a family of eVTOL vehicles Bell is developing that can reach speeds of more than 100mph with a baseline payload capability of 70 lb.

According to Bell this is twice the speed and range of a conventional multirotor. The vehicle is designed for rapid deployment, quick reconfiguration, and nimble battery swap and recharge.

Bell is using the APT 70 to demonstrate a simulated commercial mission in the USA’s national airspace system and conduct beyond visual line of sight flight operations as part of a NASA Systems Integration and Operationalization project. The demonstration is expected to be held in mid-2020.

Bell is also partnering with Japanese-logistics firm Yamato to integrate a package handling system into the APT 70 for on-demand delivery services. Entry into service for the delivery drone is planned for the “early-2020s”.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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