Bell APT70. Image courtesy of Bell
Bell and NASA will cooperate on an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) demonstration flight in the U.S. in 2020.
As part of the agreement, Bell along with parent company Textron Systems, Xwing and University of Massachusetts Amherst's Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere, the team will demonstrate a commercial mission with Bell's Autonomous Pod Transport 70 (APT70). The UAS, an electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicle that can reach 100 mph and has a payload capacity of 70 lb, includes command-and-control, and detect-and-avoid technologies.
"Some of the key technologies involved here represent a significant step to the safe and widespread commercialization of autonomous VTOL cargo and passenger carrying aircraft," said Xwing's founder and CEO, Marc Piette.
The group hopes the test will inform operations of such flights in medical, law enforcement and offshore missions, according to a company press release. The flight will be performed under NASA's Integrated Aviation Systems Program office.
“We believe the capabilities of our Autonomous Pod Transport, with the support from our team, will enable us to tackle key challenges facing commercial UAS operations today, leading to a successful demonstration," said Scott Drennan, Bell’s vice president of innovation.
Bell will design, develop, produce and integrate the systems of the aircraft. Textron Systems will supply the command-and-control tech. Xwing will provide the detect-and-avoid systems, and CASA will provide weather avoidance technology.