Bell's eVTOL, Unmanned Efforts Draw Japanese Partner

 - April 3, 2019, 10:35 AM
Bell is developing the Nexus for air-taxi operations. (Photo: Bell)

Bell’s nascent eVTOL and unmanned programs appear to be getting another boost from a major Japanese partner. This morning, Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo announced that it is pairing with Bell to create “new logistics and transportation service with Electric Vertical Take Off and Landing aircraft (eVTOL).” Sumitomo is a $68 billion international investment firm with holdings across a broad spectrum of industries including metal products; transportation and construction systems; environment and infrastructure; media; network; lifestyle-related goods and real estate; mineral resources; energy; chemical; and electronics. Sumitomo said its goal was to use Bell’s unmanned drones and air taxis to provide a variety of aviation services by the mid-2020s. In the interim, it said it will “conduct market research, improve upon existing technologies and build new businesses to provide high-quality services at affordable prices within the air mobility space.” 

Chad Sparks, director of Bell's technology and innovation strategic campaigns, said the company is “excited to partner with Sumitomo Corporation to explore new forms of technology and change the way our passengers and goods are transported." Bell is currently developing the Nexus air taxi and a series of unmanned air delivery vehicles called Autonomous Pod Transports (APTs).

Sumitomo companies manufacture a wide variety of aviation components including propellers, landing gear, heat exchangers, and pneumatic and hydraulic systems. Bell’s announced supplier partners on the Nexus include Safran, Garmin, Thales, and Moog. Last year, Bell announced that it was collaborating with Japan’s Yamato Holdings on developing autonomous eVTOL systems that could be used for on-demand package delivery and large-scale logistics by the mid-2020s.