Aircraft

Bell bounces into CES with a tilt-rotor air taxi concept

A render of Bell's Nexus flying taxi in flight
A render of Bell's Nexus flying taxi in flight
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The flying taxi space is becoming pretty crowded with what you could call audacious vehicle concepts, and Bell has just dropped another one to coincide with CES in Las Vegas
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The flying taxi space is becoming pretty crowded with what you could call audacious vehicle concepts, and Bell has just dropped another one to coincide with CES in Las Vegas
A render of Bell's Nexus flying taxi in flight
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A render of Bell's Nexus flying taxi in flight
A look at the propulsion system behind Bell's Nexus flying taxi
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A look at the propulsion system behind Bell's Nexus flying taxi
Bell showed an air taxi cabin concept at CES last year
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Bell showed an air taxi cabin concept at CES last year
The newly unveiled Nexus is a look at the future of transport that is both interesting and far-reaching
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The newly unveiled Nexus is a look at the future of transport that is both interesting and far-reaching

The flying taxi space is becoming pretty crowded with what you could call audacious vehicle concepts, and Bell has just dropped another one to coincide with CES in Las Vegas. The newly unveiled Nexus is a look at the future of transport that is both interesting and far-reaching, turning to a tilting six-rotor design to take off and propel itself through the air.

Bell hasn't been as active as some others when it comes to flying taxis, at least when it comes to full-scale concepts. The likes of Volocopter, Aston Martin, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and Airbus have all shown off their ideas for flying taxis with some pretty detailed concepts emerging – and in the case of Airbus, some promising full-scale testing results already in the bag.

But by partnering with Uber as part of its flying taxi vision in 2017 and then debuting an air taxi cabin concept at CES last year, Bell showed that it was at least intent on dipping its toes in the water. It is now going waste-deep with what it bills as a full-scale vertical-takeoff-and-landing air taxi for this year's show, dubbed Nexus.

The air taxi's hybrid propulsion and drive systems are designed by French manufacturer Safran Helicopter Engines, and center around six rotors that lay flat like pancakes when Nexus is stationary on the ground.

A look at the propulsion system behind Bell's Nexus flying taxi
A look at the propulsion system behind Bell's Nexus flying taxi

Power comes from a mix of onboard batteries and a gas turbine that drives an electrical generator, with a management unit balancing the output between the two to drive six smart electric motors. These in turn drive the six tilting propellors to provide lift, speed and flight control through the air.

"As space at the ground level becomes limited, we must solve transportation challenges in the vertical dimension – and that's where Bell's on-demand mobility vision takes hold," says Mitch Snyder, president and CEO Bell.

This echoes the message offered by other companies working on flying taxi concepts, and it is an entirely valid one. People are migrating to the world's cities in huge numbers, and that is going to ask some serious questions of our current transportation systems, urban traffic and air quality.

The flying taxi space is becoming pretty crowded with what you could call audacious vehicle concepts, and Bell has just dropped another one to coincide with CES in Las Vegas
The flying taxi space is becoming pretty crowded with what you could call audacious vehicle concepts, and Bell has just dropped another one to coincide with CES in Las Vegas

Technical details on Bell's Nexus are otherwise pretty scarce, but these kinds of concepts are cooked up by folks taking a very long view, meaning these aspects will surely evolve as new technologies emerge. In that sense, these kinds of projects are more a thought experiment on the future of city travel and aircraft architectures rather than fully realized looks at how we'll be getting to the office in the future. Quoting Bell's director of innovation Scott Drennan, The Verge reports that Bell is targeting a mid-2020s rollout of for its Nexus vehicle, for what it's worth.

Source: Bell

8 comments
Mzungu_Mkubwa
Love the "hybrid" power system! Finally, aviation heading in the right direction for sustained, efficient & controllable flight systems. I'm a bit intrigued by the design requiring that all six rotors tilt for forward flight, along with the apparently limited lift/control surfaces to sustain this. I'd think that they would merely tilt two and keep the other four fixed (along with redesigning the nacelles to be more airflow-friendly.) Other than the nice hybrid powerplant design, the rest looks a bit thrown together without much forethought. At least they're finally getting in the game, tho! ☻
guzmanchinky
Bell knows a thing or two about this field, I guess... :) Someday the sky will be full of these, for better or worse...
Grunchy
I would love to have that (hypothetical) powertrain in a car: turbogenerator + electric drive motors + plug in battery, like a Chevy Volt but with batmobile turbine. Better efficiency, simplicity, durability, lower weight. All win! The tilting rotors seem to make sense because they keep the cabin level, unlike quadcopters, which go fast, but tilt & bank to really aggressive angles. The downside is it becomes another system to maintain. The one image with all the rotors tilted completely forward looks unrealistic, what's holding up the craft? Those little winglets? Doesn't seem likely. I think I'd ditch the tilting spars and have a couple thrust fans instead.
jerryd
Bell of all companies should know better. Multirotor craft do not have the efficiency, dynamic stability of a 2 rotor on a single shaft craft. Such would have 2x or more the lifting capabilities and a fraction of the parts. Redundancy can be had with several E motors driving them, simple rotors without any collective, etc. Not unlike a Gyro control, just tilt the rotor system where you want to go. And takes up less space, carry 2 plus x the passengers, on the rooftops they'll mostly use.
Quietrunner
Wonder why they need to tilt all 6 rotors? I'm a construction Engineer, not an aviation one, but isn't the gravity issue way larger than the forward motion issue? Seems like you could tilt a couple of them for faster forward motion and retain the other four for lift.
MarcinBuglewicz
i love how some companies have literally nothing to show off so they prepare random concepts they probably will never produce just to pretend they work on something
randolini
With the safety record and maintenance problems of the V-22 Osprey, I would probably look elsewhere.
flyerfly
This looks similar to the old Moller M400 Skycar that was a failure. The noise in that thing would be terrible I would think with the high speed fans right next to you. Oh yeah...the cost...good luck.