Fort Worth, Texas, USA
Founded July 10, 1935, Bell (Originally Bell Aircraft Corporation, then Bell Helicopter Textron, then Bell Helicopter) is an American aerospace manufacturer headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, USA. The company over the years have not only made helicopters but also tilt-rotor aircraft, planes, jets, flying jeeps, missiles, hovercraft, spacecraft and more. In April 2022, Textron purchased Pipistrel (based on Slovenia) and formed a new division named Textron eAviation to design and manufacturer for conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) and electric VTOL (or eVTOL) passenger aircraft for advanced air mobility (AAM). Textron eAviation took over Bell's Nexus program in 2022 with Textron eAviation's Nexus eVTOL passenger aircraft.
The Bell Nexus is a hybrid-electric (or all battery) vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) passenger aircraft designed for on-demand air taxi advanced air mobility (AAM). 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 like Bell's tiltrotor aircraft.
Nexus 6HX passenger hybrid-electric VTOL passenger concept design specifications
The Nexus 6HX is a hybrid-electric (or can be converted to an all electric power source) VTOL passenger concept design aircraft. The aircraft will be flown with one pilot and will carry four passengers with their luggage. In the future, the aircraft is slated to be autonomous. The maximum speed of the aircraft is estimated to be 179 mph (288 km/h) with a range of 150 miles (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.
The aircraft has six large ducted fans for vertical and forward flight. There are three ducted fans on each side of the fuselage with high stub wings 8 ft (2.4 m) and in the rear of the aircraft is a T-tail. The middle set of rotors are located on the ends of the stub wings 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.
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.
—Bell CEO Mitch Snyder Keynote (Speaker) | Urban Air Mobility Conference (April 9, 2019, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)
Bell is using its decades long experience to develop the Nexus
Bell is using its vast experience and knowledge from its 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.
Originally called the Air Taxi
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, 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 passengers carried in the vehicle."
—Bell CEO Mitch Snyder Keynote (Speaker) | Urban Air Mobility Conference (April 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.
It was reported by Vertical Magazine on January 6, 2020, that the official name has now be revised to the Bell Nexus 6HX (six ducted fans, hybrid-electric power plant, experimental aircraft). In addition to the 6HX, Bell has also been engaged in the development of the Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) and Nexus 4EX.
Textron eAviation took over Bell's Nexus program in 2022 with Textron eAviation's Nexus eVTOL passenger aircraft.
- Aircraft type: Hybrid-electric VTOL or eVTOL passenger concept design
- Piloting: Piloted until autonomous flying is available
- Capacity: 4 passengers and luggage
- Maximum speed: 179 mph (288 km/h)
- Range: 150 miles (241 km)
- Maximum takeoff weight: 6,000 lb (2,720 kg)
- Aircraft footprint: 40 ft X 40 ft (12 m X 12 m)
- Propellers: 6 ducted fans
- Electric motors: 6 electric motors
- Power source: Hybrid-electric or all batteries
- Fuselage: Carbon fiber composite
- Windows: Panoramic wrap around windows allowing forward, left and right visibility for spectacular views with a solid roof above the passenger compartment
- Wings: 2 high stub wings, 8 ft (2.4 m)
- Tail: 1 T-tail
- Landing gear: Fixed quadricycle wheeled landing gear
- Safety features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), provides safety through redundancy for its passengers and/or cargo. DEP means having multiple propellers (or ducted fans) and motors on the aircraft so if one or more propellers (ducted fans) or motors fail, the other working propellers (or ducted fans) and motors can safely land the aircraft. There are also redundancies of critical components in the sub-systems of the aircraft.
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- Article: Uber to Collaborate with Bell Helicopter to Develop Urban Electric VTOLs, Electric VTOL News, Apr. 25, 2017
- Press Release: Bell Helicopter Makes Debut as First Major Helicopter Manufacturer to Exhibit at CES, Bell Helicopter, Jan. 9, 2018
- Video: Uber Wants To Make Air Travel Easy, Cheddar, Jan. 9, 2018
- Video: #BellAirTaxi: The Future of Urban Air Transportation, Bell Flight, Jan. 10, 2018
- Article: Aviation Comes to the Consumer at CES 2018, Vertiflite, Feb. 21, 2018
- Press Release: Aviation Pioneer Bell Helicopter Rebrands To “Bell”, Reflecting Expanded Vision for the Future, Bell, Feb. 22, 2018
- Bell VTOL Patent: "Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) Aircraft," US Patent US20180208305A1, filed Jan. 2, 2018; published Jul. 26, 2018.
- Article: Does Patent Application Reveal Bell’s eVTOL Design?, The Weekly Of Business Aviation, Aug. 13, 2018
- Article: Uber partner reveals air taxi design at CES, Engadget, Jan. 7, 2019
- Article: Meet Bell Nexus, the Six-Ducted-Fan Air Taxi Of the Future, Rotor & Wing International, Jan. 7, 2019
- Article: Bell Unveils Nexus Air Taxi Concept at CES, Aviation International News Online, Jan. 7, 2019
- Article: Bell unveils design and Nexus name for urban air taxi, FlightGlobal, Jan. 7, 2019
- Article: Bell’s hybrid-electric flying car will be available via Uber by the ‘mid-2020s’, The Verge, Jan. 7, 2019
- Press Release: Bell Unveils Full-Scale Design of Air Taxi at CES 2019, Bell, Jan. 7, 2019
- Press Release: Bell Reveals Nexus Air Taxi, Electric VTOL News, Jan. 7, 2019
- Video: CES 2019 - Bell Nexus Debut, Bell Flight, Jan. 8, 2019
- Video: Bell Nexus First Look at CES 2019: Uber's future people movers, Engadget, Jan. 9, 2019
- Article: Bell Helicopter unveils full-scale air taxi at CES 2019, GPS World, Jan. 12, 2019
- Video: Bell Leads The Way for On-Demand Mobility, Bell Flight, Mar. 7, 2019
- Article Electrified Bell Nexus concept shows how Uber Air could take off, Green Car Reports, Mar. 10, 2019
- Article: Fast 5: Bell Strives for Urban Air Mobility Adoption by 2025, MRO Network, Apr. 5, 2019
- Video: A deep dive into Bell’s Nexus eVTOL Air Taxi Aircraft of the Future - AINtv, Aviation International News TV, Mar. 13, 2019
- Video: SXSW | Death to Roadways: Ending Traffic with Flying Cars, Bell Flight, Mar. 25, 2019
- Video: CEO Mitch Snyder Keynote | Urban Air Mobility Conference, Bell Flight, Apr. 9, 2019
- Article: Transformative Vertical Flight 2020,Vertiflite, March/April 2020
- Article: Urban Air Mobility Steals the Show at CES 2020, Vertiflite, March/April 2020
- Article: Financing the Electric VTOL Revolution, Vertiflite, July/August 2020