Bell Unveils Flying Taxi

Textron Inc.’s Bell Helicopter unit took the wraps off a full-scale vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) air taxi concept at this week’s CES electronics show in Las Vegas.

Dubbed the Bell Nexus, the aircraft is powered by a hybrid-electric propulsion system with six ducted fans that tilt to horizontal and vertical orientation for takeoff/landing and forward flight.

Bell, which took the lead on the design of the vehicle, is partnering with several tech companies on the project. Safran developed the hybrid propulsion technology—repurposing a gas turbine to operate as a generator—and EPS is providing the energy storage systems.

Garmin will integrate the avionics and the vehicle management computer. Other partners include Thales (flight control computer hardware and software) and Moog (flight control actuation).

Bell says the Nexus can comfortably seat four passengers and a pilot. Flying range is estimated at 150 miles.

The company aims to conduct test flights in early 2020 and launch commercial applications sometime later. Bell also is working with Uber Technologies Inc., which is developing its own flying taxi fleet early next decade.