The Bell Aircraft Corporation has been designing innovative aircraft for over 80 years. First, it broke the sound barrier. Then it launched the first certified commercial helicopter, and supported NASA’s first lunar mission. It has now revealed the configuration of its prototype VTOL air taxi at the 2019 CES expo. Intriguingly, this piloted Bell air taxi uses a hybrid single-turbine multi-battery approach.
Current Battery Technology Dictating Bell Air Taxi Design
The Drive emag explains how the current state of battery technology dictates the Bell air taxi power. Because this “signals a realistic awareness that batteries are not there yet”. So instead, Bell uses a single turbine to feed energy via batteries to six eight-foot diameter fans.
Consequently the Bell Nexus taxi vehicle has a design distance of 150 miles, and a maximum flying speed of 150 mph. However, Bell could be jumping the gun by saying “battery capacity is simply not advancing fast enough. To ensure the robust speed, range, and mission frequency to meet the expectations and needs of a nascent air taxi industry.” This is because that situation could change in the next few years before it comes to market.
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What’s Could the Name ‘Bell Nexus’ Signal?
A ‘nexus’ is a central point where things converge. Therefore Capitol Hill is the nexus of American political will. Bell is moving forward. Because its press release reads “As space at the ground level becomes limited, we must solve transportation challenges. This will be in the vertical dimension – and that’s where Bell’s on-demand mobility vision takes hold.” Thus, this project is a nexus where technology currently converges.
Moreover, the company has an autonomous project developing in parallel with its piloted Bell air taxi. It is also working on an autonomous air transport idea. This proposes ‘autonomous pods’ with batteries to serve in ‘medical, law enforcement, offshore missions and on-demand delivery service’.
The taxi passenger-compartment seats four passengers and the pilot, providing ‘big bird’ confidence. The Drive comments “it looks suspiciously like a Bell Jet Ranger slung underneath the giant array of ducted fan rotors”. Not reinventing unnecessarily makes sense, and speeds the project to fruition.
Preview Image: Bell Air Taxi In Action