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