Bell has brought its Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) eVTOL this week to the 2022 Air Medical Transport Conference in Tampa, Florida. The company has been flying the aircraft for several years and aims for a production version that will deliver 100 pounds, 100 miles, at 100 knots per hour, said Bell executive Lane Evans.
Evans said the APT to date has shown its ability to perform depot-to-deport missions that would lend itself to the delivery of medical supplies. The aircraft has the ability to be manually off-loaded and can automatically drop loads at a fixed point and depart or overfly and airdrop. “It will do all of those calculations, but primarily right now it is going to supply.”
The APT has been test flown beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and in highly-controlled and congested airspace, including the area around Dallas-Fort Worth International airport (KDFW). “It’s got a lot of testing on it,” Evans said. “Now it is a matter of the [FAA] rules and regulations to catch up.”
To date, the FAA has issued a very limited number of package delivery by drone authorizations under Part 135 and has significantly limited the range of approved BVLOS operations.