The Nexus hexacopter could be the first working air taxi

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Big words, but the revolution in urban transportation is promised by the long-established American aircraft and helicopter manufacturing company Bell (currently under its full name: Bell Helicopter Textron Inc.). One of the biggest throws at the Las Vegas consumer electronics show, CES’s automotive section, is the Bell Nexus tipper-rotating hexakopter air taxi, which attracts crowds of visitors as a magnet, which the company sees as not an expensive toy for the rich, but a cheap and modern way to travel.The Bell may not need to be introduced to anyone, but here are a few milestones that will prove that.


A II. they took their share of World War II with the production of the nearly ten thousand copies of the P-39 Airacobra, and then at the dawn of the jet era Bell manufactured the first American jet fighter, the P-59 Airacomet. The X-1, an experimental rocket aircraft that first broke the speed limit of sound, is the company’s creation, as is the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV) simulator (in which, say, Neil Armstrong left his teeth almost there). Of course, Bell is really strong in helicopter development and manufacturing: the bubble-headed Bell 47, the Vietnam War warhorse, the “Huey” UH-1 Iroquois and its various variants, the AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter and the V-22 Osprey tipper rotary military transport co-manufactured with Boeing well known, you can say legendary-iconic flying structure.

If we look at civil aviation for peaceful purposes, Bell has come a long way since the development of the first civilian helicopter, the Bell 47, to which a series of pioneering developments have been linked. In keeping with the spirit of the times, the company’s engineers have been working with steam power to develop air taxis taking off from the ground in recent years, and the current state of this work, the prototype of the Bell Nexus, was unveiled at CES.

At Monday’s press conference, Mitch Snyder, president and CEO of Bell, said the Nexus will be safer, quieter and cheaper than any civilian helicopter so far. Nexus ’hybrid-powered (i.e., electric and gas turbine) six-channel ducted fan was placed in a tilt-rotor system in a hexagonal shape above the cab. Thanks to the tilt rotor solution, the Nexus will be able to get out of place and then turn the six propellers to a horizontal position at high speed. Much of the technical data is yet to be reported, so much so that it appears that the 2.6-tonne aircraft will be able to fly a distance of about 241 kilometers at a top speed of roughly 240 km / h. The flight experience will be enhanced by huge windows, and some of them will even provide an augmented reality experience as a transparent graphic display – as planned.

Technology is not the barrier

The boss says the Nexus will be flying in the early 2020s and is expected to be available around 2025. In the meantime, of course, the Nexus will have to pass a lot of tests, but Snyder is confident that Bell’s experience so far will help bring the project to life. “Bell is the only company with experience in building dump rotor machines. We have all the knowledge we need to build the Nexus, we just need to hone existing technologies,” Snyder stressed, adding that there is no real technological barrier in front of them, much more so. regulatory issues are still well open.

The Nexus is planned to be capable of carrying both passengers and luggage, in which case four people can sit behind the pilot and the flight manager. The aircraft will be able to take off from properly designed helicopter take-off platforms in large cities. Of course, for the Nexus to be a successful air taxi, more and more of these landing and take-off points will be needed. Expansion exploration Uber is already interested in the Nexus, by the way, and it will be revealed in the next decade whether freight sharing will bring civilian helicoptering to the wider masses.

The Nexus is not a toy

In any case, the wider masses already loved the Nexus very much, although Bell only exhibited a static model that was not yet able to fly at CES. The large machine, painted with bright midnight black and decorated with led lights, had to line up a large line to sit in the futuristic booth for a few moments. The seats are comfortable (obviously), the design is like street sports cars, Bell’s pretty cool new logo, the dragonfly included in the shield pops up in several places. You can see more touch screens on the pre-pilot console, which of course isn’t the final control, but Bell says driving the Nexus won’t be harder than driving a small plane, and the smart systems to be built will take on a number of tasks on the future Nexus. on the shoulders of pilots. “The point is to have more time during the flight for what people like to do,” Mitch Snyder said in a panel discussion on the podium next to the plane on Tuesday.

In recent years, of course, we’ve seen a number of promising flying car, air taxi concepts, and working specimens among them, but these were mostly difficult-to-implement prototypes for small companies that haven’t really become anything so far. The Nexus – if Bell successfully overcomes the pitfalls and even massive walls of regulatory aviation regulations – could be a more promising product. This is indicated by the fact that Bell has serious partners in development and production: navigation is planned by Garmin, flight control fly-by-wire computers by Thales, hybrid drive by Safran, and batteries by EPS. “It’s not a recreational machine or a toy,” said Scott Drennan, Bell’s vice president of innovation, referring to the fact that the Nexus isn’t sinking on some kind of community funding side and then going to be a project that dies in the ashes.

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