Bell’s new, self-flying cargo drone hauls a heavy load

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The all-electric APT 70 can tote up to 70 pounds, cruise at 75 mph, and cover 35 miles with a fully charged battery.

Bell aims to begin beyond-visual-line-of sight tests for the APT 70 next year, on the road to starting commercial service in the early 2020s.

They say things are bigger in Texas, and it seems that goes for drones as well as pickup trucks and cowboy hats. At least, if Fort Worth-based Bell’s new, autonomous cargo carrier is any indicator.

The four-motor, vertical-lift electric UAV is one of the largest commercial cargo drone projects to reach the skies. It stands nearly 6 feet tall and 9 feet wide on the ground (it rests on its tail before transitioning to horizontal flight after liftoff). It weighs 300 pounds and can carry an additional 70 pounds of cargo, slung in an aerodynamic pod between its two wings. That all-important stat gives it the name APT 70, the letters standing for “autonomous pod transport.” It first started flying in December via remote control, and in the past three weeks began fully autonomous flight, Bell announced this week.

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