Nexus
Bell
Fort Worth, Texas, USA
www.bellflight.com

The Bell Nexus is a hybrid-electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) vehicle aimed at on-demand Urban Air Mobility. The unveiling of the Bell Nexus hybrid-electric VTOL aircraft took place on Jan. 7, 2019 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2019), the world’s largest consumer technology show, in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. The Nexus will convert from helicopter mode to airplane mode, just their Bell’s tiltrotors.

Nexus is a ducted fan hybrid-electric aircraft fully autonomous flight capable. It will convert from helicopter mode to airplane mode, just like our tiltrotors. We will also continue to pursue a parallel path of all electric because we truly believe, that is the right answer. However, the batteries that support an aircraft of that size and speed and range requirements that we’re after, just aren’t there yet. But as I talked early, when it is ready, we can easily remove our engine and the fuel tank and install the additional batteries, essentially it’s (inaudible) upgrade and it won’t impact anything else about the flying vehicle.

Quote from Bell CEO Mitch Snyder Keynote (Speaker) | Urban Air Mobility Conference (Apr. 9, 2019, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)

The Nexus has six (6) large ducted fans for vertical and forward flight, three (3) on each side of the fuselage, with a main high wing 8 ft (2.4 m) with a high rear stabilizer. The middle set of rotors are located on the ends of the main wing and the fans pitch from vertical to horizontal allowing vectored and forward thrust. Landing skids contain small wheels. While the Bell patent includes two different versions, one that holds one passenger and a pilot, and one that holds six passengers, the current version shows a “4+1” configuration for a pilot and four passengers. Top speed will be 155 kt (288 km/h) with a range of 130 nm (241 km). It has a gross weight of 6,000 lb (2,720 kg) and will fit in a 40 ft x 40 ft (12.2 m square) footprint.

Bell is using it’s vast experience and knowledge from it’s first ducted fan aircraft, the Bell X-22 (which first flew in 1966), to it’s experience with the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor (the V-22 Osprey is the U.S. Navy version and the MV-22 Osprey is the U.S. Marines version) and the new V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft in making the Nexus VTOL aircraft.

If you notice, the V-22 Osprey tiltrotors tilt the entire engine and propellers as one unit, as a Wired article from 2016 discusses, that has resulted in some operational issues such as the engine exhaust, when landing, catches grass on fire or possibly can burn-up a landing pad and it’s safer for troops to exit in the rear of the aircraft due to hot engines in close proximity to the ground. One other point, if the Osprey is hovering and some military personnel decide to fire, they better be careful not to hit the engine which is now in the vertical position!

The Bell V-280 Valor has permanently mounted their engine horizontally on the ends of the wings and only the rotors and drive-shafts move for vertical and forward flight. Of course, the Bell V-280 is about half as small as the Osprey and can’t carry as many troops and equipment. So there are trade-offs between both aircraft in terms of capabilities. If military personnel decide to shoot from the V-280 while it’s hovering, there will be no engines in the way.

Bell (then “Bell Helicopter”) announced on April 25, 2017 at the Uber Elevate Summit that the two companies will be working together “to accelerate the eventual large-scale deployment of electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (VTOLs) in order to fulfill its mission of providing a safe, reliable transportation service to everyone, everywhere.” The vehicle is designed for urban mobility and can be used as part of the Uber Elevate concept including using vertiports or Skyports.

Bell says team Nexus consists of a partnership with Safran (hybrid propulsion and drive systems), Electric Power Systems, EPS (energy storage systems), Thales (Flight Control Computer (FCC) hardware and software), Moog (flight control actuation systems) and Garmin (integration of avionics and the vehicle management computer). A full scale demonstrator is expected early in the next decade with widespread service in the mid-2020s.

The vehicle was originally simply called the Air Taxi. It was premiered as the Nexus at the Consumer Technology Association’s CES 2019 show. The company unveiled the Bell Air Taxi cabin experience at the Consumer Technology Association’s CES 2018, stating: “During CES, attendees will experience an augmented reality simulator inside the cabin with a selection of consumer scenarios, from a red-carpet premiere landing to several cross-city day and night trips.

“Two years ago, we unveiled our Air Taxi cabin at CES [Consumer Electronics Show] and we designed designed the cabin first because we wanted it to center on passenger safety and comfort. We also wanted your flight to be a fun interactive experience.

So our feeling was, is if we started with the flight technology first and work inward, we would sub-optimize [he might have meant optimize] the customer experience. And I’m an engineer and a lot of engineers are out there, if you start looking at requirements, we try to create these amazing flying vehicles and by the time we worked our way back to the cabin, it’s pretty darn small because its the most efficient and less drag.

So that’s why we said, “No, we aren’t going to it that way,” we’re going to baseline the cabin because we want the priority to be the passengers and then work our way outward for the flight. So that aircraft seated four (4), including a pilot with ample storage for bags. And why a pilot? We want people to feel safe and get comfortable with the aircraft. Most commercial flights today are performed using automation but pilots are still on board. The [autonomous] tech is developed and maturing but as humans, we’re not ready for flying without pilots.

We will get there but rest assured, safety will continue to be at the forefront as we progress towards fully autonomous (aircraft). And I truly believe that logistics will pave the way here. I think that’s where we’ll start with this. Let’s first move logistics and packages first autonomous. And then build the confidence and work our way back into people flying.

…One change we did make from our Air Taxi cabin experience to the Nexus was, we added a 5th seat. We wanted the 5th seat to be the pilot, so we’d still have four (4) passengers carried in the vehicle.

Quote from Bell CEO Mitch Snyder Keynote (Speaker) | Urban Air Mobility Conference (Apr. 9, 2019, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)

Quote from Bell CEO Mitch Snyder Keynote (Speaker) | Urban Air Mobility Conference (Apr. 9, 2019, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)

Bell’s air taxi design took inspiration from the people that will benefit from it; bringing families, friends, and businesses closer together by gradually reducing the average in-car trip length.” Bell CEO Mitch Snyder stated at the Urban Air Mobility Conference on Apr. 9, 2019 (Atlanta, Georgia, USA), that the current Bell Nexus “…I think this was the design iteration number 36 … number 36 looks pretty darn good.”

Bell is currently designing advanced manufacturing technologies, including 3-D printing, and they are using augmented and virtual reality to ensure their factories are built as efficiently as possible for high-rate production of these aircraft. Bell’s goal is to have the Nexus operational by 2025. Bell has also stated that besides ride sharing, the Nexus can also be used for emergency medical services, tourism, corporate use, cargo and military use.

Specifications:

  • VTOL and forward flight: 6 ducted fans. 3 on each side of the fuselage.
  • Wing: 1 high-wing for forward flight, 8 ft (2.4 m).
  • Maximum speed: 179 mph (155 kt / 288 km/h).
  • Range: 150 miles (130 nm / 241 km).
  • Gross weight: 6,000 lb (2,720 kg)
  • Pilot: 1.
  • Passengers 4 plus baggage.
  • Autonomous: Can also fly in an autonomous mode.
  • Footprint: 40 ft X 40 ft (12 m X 12 m)
  • Propulsion: Hybrid-electric. Can be easily reconfigured to all-electric when batteries with a higher density are developed.

Resources:

Tags:

AirTaxi, Bell, Vectored ThrustInitial Design2 Passengers, 5 Passengers, Electric HybridAutonomous, Piloted, Aerial Tourism, Corporate, Cargo, Military, VFS Member