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Bell’s futuristic flying taxi

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Dal Kikin
March 29, 2019

The air taxi space is crowded — not only on paper but with prototypes and flying demos. Bell Helicopter, a Textron Inc. company, is a global helicopter leader and no stranger to the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) world. It announced the Bell Nexus, a hybrid-electric vertical takeoff, and landing (eVTOL) aircraft a few years ago at CES. This year it has unveiled at CES in Las Vegas to find out what it looks like and what it means for our future mobility needs by 2023.

Prototypes of air taxis come in different sizes, shapes, and looks. But rarely do they come with more than 4 seats. Bell showed us the full-size demonstration of its Nexus eVTOL, and it was big. 

The 6,000-pound Nexus, a hybrid-propulsion ducted-rotor aircraft boasting a projected 150-mile range, a top speed of 150 mph, expansive windows and an “augmented reality enhanced” flight experience.

The Nexus has one pilot seat in front of four passenger seats. A wrap-around cockpit includes an unconventional-looking array of controls and displays. It is powered by a hybrid-electric propulsion system using a Safran turbine. One battery pack sits on top of the aircraft in front of the turbine, and another pack below the aircraft frame. The Nexus will use Bell’s lift concept, with the 6 tilting ducted fans designed to be safe, redundant, and quiet for air travel. The next important step as it said “is designing a flight control ecosystem that allows individuals to safely and efficiently operate urban air vehicles.”

Bell was one of the first aircraft manufacturers to team up with Uber in 2017 when the ride-hailing company first released its ambitious Uber Elevate plan to create a network of city-based flying taxis as a way to alleviate street-level traffic. Since then, Bell has been working on its own design. Bell is aiming to have the Nexus in flight over a handful of major markets by the mid-2020s.

Mitch Snyder, President, and CEO of Bell said on the CES exhibition in January:

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. The industry has anticipated the reveal of our air taxi for some time, so Bell is very proud of this moment. We believe the design, taken with our strategic approach to build this infrastructure, will lead to the successful deployment of the Bell Nexus to the world.
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