Bell partners with NASA for UAS project

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Bell is partnering with NASA to conduct unmanned aircraft tests in 2020.

The Texas aircraft company will be collaborating with Textron Systems, Xwing, and the University of Massachusetts on the project with NASA. The organisations will work together to develop and demonstrate unmanned aircraft technologies.

Some of the tech being tested includes unmanned aircraft, integrated command-and-control systems and detect-and avoid-technologies.

Scott Drennan, Bell’s vice president of Innovation said: “Bell is proud to continue the collaboration of new VTOL UAS technologies to drive a path toward UAS certification and commercialization.

“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.”

Bell, specifically, will be working on the design, development, production and systems integration of its Autonomous Pod Transport 70 (APT70) – a new addition to Bell’s eVTOL project line which also includes the FCX 001 air taxi.

Early details of the APT70 show it is capable of rotation and translation in-flight, a top speed of more than 100mph, and a payload of 70lbs. concept art of the aircraft can be seen above.

Collaborators

Xwing will be working to develop the detect-and-avoid technologies for unmanned aircraft. Xwing’s Founder and CEO Marc Piette said:

"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. Xwing is excited to work with Bell, with the support of NASA and the FAA, to accelerate the path to certification of these systems."

The University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA) department will be working on weather-avoidance technology for the project.

Apoorva Bajaj, CASA’s innovation manager commented: “CASA is excited to collaborate with Bell on the integration of low-altitude weather information into UAS operations. Precise information on location, timing and severity of thunderstorm activity, wind and rain will help maximize the time UAS operations can be safely conducted.”