Bell, Japan Airlines, and Sumitomo Corp. signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly develop plans to develop the concept of mobility-as-a-service. The agreement, announced on February 11, focuses on developing the infrastructure and regulatory environment to support plans to launch on-demand air mobility services using Bell's new Nexus 4EX eVTOL aircraft.
The announcement makes no mention of Bell's new Japanese partners being directly involved in the development of the all-electric Nexus 4EX aircraft. This design was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in January with four tilting ducted fans, a central wing and a conventional vertical tail without a horizontal stabilizer. At the same time, Bell introduced its new AeroOS urban air mobility operations software.
The new model replaces an earlier six-fan hybrid-electric Nexus design that was due to achieve certification in 2023. Bell has yet to publish a timeline for the 4EX to enter service.
Japan Airlines and Sumitomo will help Bell to develop planning and policy recommendations, as well as identify air mobility-use cases and pilot programs and developing infrastructure requirements. Sumitomo's expertise spans multiple activities, including transportation, construction, manufacturing real estate, digital technology, and energy. "We have been inspired by Bell's vision and their capability of penetrating into this urban air mobility market," said Eiji Ishida, executive officer for the group's lease, ship, and aerospace business division.
Tomohiro Nishihata, Japan Airlines' managing executive officer for innovation, commented: "Japan Airlines is eager to explore the future of air travel beyond its existing framework, and we believe this is the right team to set the standard for Japan for future cities to implement urban air mobility systems."