Bell recently debuted its Nexus electric-powered vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) concept at CES. What has the public reception been like so far and what’s next in terms of bringing the Nexus to the skies?
The reaction to Bell Nexus has been amazing. People believe that it’s no longer an if this will happen—it’s a when this will happen. We expect to have aircraft operating by 2025; it will be here sooner than we think.
When it comes to future widespread urban air mobility (UAM) adoption, what do you think is still standing in the way of flying taxis becoming a reality?
Most of the technologies exist that will enable eVTOL. However, we will continue work with regulators and communities to ensure policies and procedures are in place when the vehicles are ready.
The Bell Nexus will have a pilot in the vehicle until the public feels fully confident in the technology. We realize that will take some time, but we believe that a fully-autonomous vehicle will happen.
A major concern with the adoption of flying taxis is how air traffic management will be handled. What changes need to take place to ensure that UAM vehicles are able to fly safely and without major constraints?
A good system is already in place with the existing aircraft operations environment. There is work that needs to be done to prepare for an increase in traffic, particularly in the low-altitude airspace, as well as the use of more automation needed to safely and efficiently enhance operations.
This is also why we are working with regulators now to establish a safe, holistic approach that doesn’t overburden one part of the system.
One of the commonly discussed models for UAM infrastructure is the idea of vertiports in urban centers or at airports. Realistically, where does Bell see UAM vehicles such as the Nexus starting to sprout up?
Nexus will operate from vertiports in urban areas. What we don’t want to do is place those vertiports in already congested areas and create more of a traffic issue. We are working with partners to consider those locations.
There are several cities participating in the Uber Elevate collaboration, plus a few others that have shown interest, both in the U.S. and internationally. Obviously, those urban areas where traffic congestion is a major problem are the ones looking for ways to improve mobility for their citizens.
The Nexus will have electric propulsion and, potentially in the future, autonomous technology. How will these technologies change the maintenance model compared to traditional aircraft?
There will be normal aviation airworthiness requirements like standard practices for maintenance and inspections. We will utilize several new technologies—for example, the electric batteries, which will require procedures to be written.
Mitch Snyder will be the keynote speaker at Aviation Week Network’s Urban Air Mobility Conference April 9-10, 2019 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia.