Aerospace giant Bell has announced that the Autonomous Pod Transport (APT 70) has completed successful test flights.
Bell’s APT 70 is part of a new electronic vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) family of vehicles the company is developing. It can reach speeds of over 100mph and has a baseline payload capability of 70 lbs.
Bell is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Textron Inc. The successful first autonomous flight of the APT 70 took place at a company testing site near Fort Worth. Bell has confirmed plans to push forward with further testing under an ‘experimental type certificate’ from the FAA throughout the remainder of 2019.
APT 70 designed for package delivery & medical transport
“We are excited to reach this milestone, and look forward to continuing to advance this technology for our customers,” said Scott Drennan, vice president, Innovation.
“The APT is designed to be capable of various mission sets, from package delivery to critical medical transport to disaster relief. We believe this capability will change the way unmanned aerial systems are used commercially in the future.”
Bell’s APT systems are being developed with flexibility in mind, offering multiple mission capabilities while keeping operations simple, efficient and fast. Bell says the new aircraft offers twice the speed and range of a conventional multirotor.
The APT series is designed for rapid deployment and quick reconfiguration. It also has a nimble battery swap and recharge system.
Bell to demonstrate commercial applications in 2020
Bell plans to use the APT 70 to demonstrate a simulated commercial mission through the NASA Systems Integration and Operationalization (SIO) demonstration activity. The beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight tests are expected to be held in mid-2020.
Bell is also exploring a working partnership with Japanese logistics provider Yamato. The collaboration will integrate Yamato’s package handling system into APT 70 for an on-demand logistics service.
The Bell and Yamato team have already conducted a demonstration to show their systems working together as they prepare to launch a joint service in the early-2020s.