Bell-Uber taxi: How soon is now?

Uber, the taxi app company, is working in collaboration with rotary OEM Bell Helicopter on an ambitious flying taxi programme which it hopes to see test flights for in 2020.

Three years from now Uber are hopeful that utilising Bell’s innovation knowledge and expertise they will have an electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft to operate as a taxi service.

Bell Helicopter remain tighter lipped about the timelines at this stage. In a non-committal fashion, Scott Drennan, director of engineering innovation at Bell Helicopter told Quill or Capture more about the deadlines and the project.

‘We are looking carefully at what we can and can’t do. Uber has put out some pretty aggressive timelines. Bell is looking at this from a safety perspective to ensure the aircraft can perform the missions,’ Drennan said.

At this stage, Bell Helicopter’s innovation team, which recently showcased the concept aircraft the FCX-001, is looking at technologies that will adhere to Uber’s brief for urban transportation.

uberelevate-vtol-plane-bell-helicopter

Primarily, the team’s initial propulsion technology direction is anticipated to be centred around hybrid electric although this could evolve to fully electric.

Cities being looked at for an initial service are Dallas and Dubai. The former is no surprise being the home of Bell Helicopter.

‘We are both open to all urban environments… open to Dallas and Dubai… Dallas is our home turf, we know we have supportive mayors and we know we have lots of aerospace in the area.

‘We have communities that want to be leaders in technology and transportation. So, that’s a great choice for us as well,’ Drennan commented.

With a community that is so open to new aircraft technologies buzzing overhead, this surely provides a blank check for the OEM to experiment as this accessibility of aircraft contends with preempted complaints related to noise disturbances.

‘Uber is honest about the challenges. We agree with their list – autonomy and air traffic control certification, propulsion – these are all going to be unique challenges that of course Bell loves to face and matches our historical legacy of taking on transformative lift,’ he commented.

Drennan explained that in the development of the aircraft, low emissions are being considered and noise is a key parameter in its design.

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