Taking a step toward commercializing its Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) cargo vehicle, Bell recently completed a successful demonstration of the eVTOL drone with the use of ground-based detect-and-avoid (DAA) sensors as part of a NASA Systems Integration and Operationalization project. Flight trials conducted in December showed the APT’s ability to integrate with ground radar systems, a key capability for operation in airspace traffic, Bell said, calling this a critical component for advanced air mobility vehicles.
The demonstration involved a beyond-visual-line-of-sight mission using DAA technology to scan complex airspace for “natural intruders.” Under the demonstration, Bell equipped one of its 429 helicopters with its QuantiFly aircraft communication unit to record telemetry information.
This demo flight was among several for the APT that Bell has been conducting in commercial and military applications. John Wittmaak, Bell program manager for unmanned aerial systems, said that over the past year “we really focused on maturing the APT platform.”
Wittmaak added that the APT is now at a point where Bell is ready this year to “explore a collaborative partnership, pilot programs, and proof of concepts with commercial entities” in preparation for certification and commercialization. Bell is eyeing potential partners that could represent a range of applications, from third-party logistics to retailers and healthcare systems.
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