In 2012, Bell Helicopter launched its newest offering that was something radically different and its most ambitious project in years. Dubbed the ‘Bell 525 Relentless’, the “super-medium” twin-engine helicopter is to be the first commercial helicopter to incorporate fly-by-wire flight controls and also the company’s largest civil helicopter ever. Initially designed to meet the grueling demands of offshore oil operations, the company will also offer the helicopter with a variety of luxurious cabin interiors. For the first time, Bell has given a peek inside the cabin that shows a sample of VIP interior options, including oversize swivel seating, conference layouts, and a mini galley.
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.
Bell Helicopter challenged its Innovation Team to accelerate its aircraft design process. Turning to VR as a key improvement to their design pipeline, the team created the FCX-001, the company’s first “concept aircraft,” in just six months.
Typically it takes five to seven years to design a helicopter, according to a case study published by Bell and HTC. Within that period there’s typically multiple iterations being explored between draft drawings, pilot testing, and focus groups. Thanks to VR, the FCX-001 ended up taking less than six-months to create, Bell says.
Vision of the Future
A sleek new helicopter design was unveiled by Bell Helicopter at the Heli-Expo in Dallas, Texas.
Called the FCX-001, the next-generation machine will be built from sustainable materials and run on a hybrid power system. It will come equipped with augmented reality (AR), an artificial intelligence (AI) co-pilot, and rotor blades that morph depending on flight conditions.