Bell’s autonomous cargo drone takes its successful first flight

On Monday, Bell has announced that its multi-copter UAV completed a successful first flight at their testing site near Fort Worth.

The aircraft, called the Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) 70, is a small vertical take-off and landing craft that uses four rotors to provide lift and propulsion once it’s in the air.

This self-driving cargo drone can reach the top speed of more than 100 mph and has a payload capacity of 70 pounds. Besides, the drone is optimized for rapid deployment, quick reconfiguration, and fast battery swap and recharge. This enables APT 70 to easily handle the tasks, including package delivery to the transport of medical supplies or food during a natural disaster.

As it does a vertical-to-horizontal switch by changing the orientation of its rotor-equipped wing assembly, it can fly much faster than traditional rotor-based aircraft of similar size and power constraints.

We are excited to reach this milestone, and look forward to continuing to advance this technology for our customers,” Scott Drennan, vice president, Innovation, said in a press release.

The company will be testing the APT 70 under an experimental type certificate for the rest of the year. It plans to demonstrate a simulated commercial mission in the national airspace system, as part of the NASA Systems Integration and Operationalization demo, sometime in the middle of next year. The demonstration is actually aimed to show how the aircraft can be intreated with centralized command and control and obstacle avoidance technologies.

Moreover, Bell is also working with Japanese logistics company Yamato to adapt the APT 70 for Yamato’s package-handling system. Both companies hope to enter into service sometime in the early 2020s.

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