This is Bell Nexus, the company's "air taxi" concept, formerly known as Bell Helicopter. As a hyrbid-electric propulsion aircraft, the Nexus with six tiltable fans will start and land vertically from a roof or take-off ramp. And more importantly, in the not-too-distant future, with Uber's new flight service, you can welcome one for a cruise tour.


Air taxis or flying cars, if you feel uncomfortable, are enjoying a boom, and Bell from Fort Worth, Texas, hopes to seize the moment. The company renamed itself a technology company last year and, after decades, was one of the leading manufacturers of Commercial and Military Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) aircraft. (It produces both the V-22 Osprey and the upcoming V-280 Valor.) Now it wants to manufacture electric VTOL aircraft (eVTOL), with the Nexus appearing as the first foray into this futuristic market.

Bell was one of the first aircraft manufacturers to team up with Uber in 2017 when the company first announced its ambitious plan to create a city route network to alleviate road traffic. Since then, Bell has worked hard on his own design, and at CES this week, pulled back the curtain on his first concept.

Bell aims to fly the Nexus through a handful of key markets by the mid-2020s, said Scott Drennan, director of innovation at Bell. He argued that the key element of the aircraft was its "accessibility," making it the ideal vehicle for this proposed flying taxi service.

"This is an airplane that you would feel safe and comfortable with if you would bring your family to it." The large canals obscure the rotors, which should relieve customers' fears as they lose their fast-moving blades. In other words, In other words, "For those who are not used to VTOL aircraft," said Drennan. This is probably anyone who does not regularly commute by helicopter.


Last year, Bell showed the cab of the then unnamed air taxi to discuss upcoming plans. There is only one model this year, and there will not be a working prototype until the company is about to start a true service. However, Bell is willing to talk about some of the design decisions used to create the Nexus.

Drennan said the Nexus can accommodate five people and has a gross weight capacity of 600 pounds (272 kilograms). Bell chose a hybrid propulsion system instead of a purely electric propulsion system to allow the plane to continue to fly and carry more weight. That's because Bell does not want the Nexus to be put in a drawer only as an air taxi. That way, the company can hedge its bets if the whole flying madness we're experiencing these days does not really go out.

"Since we looked at the available missions, be it an air taxi or logistics services or even military applications, we felt that it would be more appropriate to get out of range than would be possible with purely electric vehicles," said Drennan.

Bell may have other motives to take part in the CES hype parade than just show off a cool air taxi concept. The helicopter industry experienced one of the sharpest disruptions caused by the decline in global oil prices. Bell is owned by the global aviation group Textron, which also includes Cessna Aircraft, Beechcraft and other airlines. A helicopter-to-electric VTOL pivot would be a signal to investors that the company is looking to the future.

In 2016, Uber presented the first plan to bring its carpooling into the airspace above the cities. However, the project still faces significant hurdles. The type of aircraft Uber plans to bring the passengers from the roof to the roof - electric, autonomous, able to start and land vertically - does not yet exist, nor the infrastructure that supports such a service. Experts believe that technical and regulatory barriers could cause flying cars to fail to start in a meaningful way.


That does not mean that flying cars do not have a moment: at least 19 companies are developing airline plans. These include older manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus, and small startups like Kitty Hawk, owned by Google founder Larry Page. Meanwhile, Uber has made significant progress with a handful of aircraft manufacturers, real estate companies and regulators to improve its chances of developing a fully functional flying taxi service as needed.

However, all-electric VTOL aircraft are included in the Uber Flight Taxi service, which seems to exclude a hybrid propulsion system such as Bell's Nexus vehicle. Mark Moore, technical director for aviation at Uber, said the concept was an important "first step" towards becoming a fully electric, fully commercial flying taxi company.


"This will allow tests to be conducted in the near future while the batteries are ready for all-electric solutions," Moore told The Verge. "We are very excited what Bell does. There are many companies developing [eVTOL] demonstrators. At Uber we enable this completely new transport system because we connect to the users."

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