The American companies Hillwood and Bell Helicopter demonstrated a point-to-point unmanned aircraft system (UAS) package delivery in North Texas at the AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone. The Bell Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) 70 flew across the Mobility Innovation Zone (MIZ) and delivered a package to a landing area, demonstrating its future commercial capabilities.
Bell’s APT 70 is the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicle that consists of four small aircraft fuselages with electric motors and propellers, united by two wings and two stabilizers. It can reach speeds of more than 100 mph (160 km/h) and has a baseline payload capability of 70 pounds (31.8 kg). Bell’s APT system is capable of twice the speed and range of a conventional multirotor, and the vehicle is designed for rapid deployment, quick reconfiguration, and nimble battery swap and recharge.
During the test flight at the AllianceTexas innovation center, the APT 70 drone took off in a fully automatic mode, switched to aircraft flight mode, and then rotated to fly on its wing, becoming nearly silent to the ground below. In-flight, the device reached a maximum altitude of 300 feet (91 meters) above ground level. The aircraft transitioned in and out of Class D and Class G airspace, demonstrating the types of airspace the APT could encounter during a commercial flight and the unique diversity of airspace within the MIZ.
Bell Helicopter plans to use the data collected during the demonstration will be used to support future standards development and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification guidelines.
“Bell is proud to play a role in the first North Texas UAS package delivery, and this demonstration showcases the future application of the APT 70 as a logistics carrier,” said Mitch Snyder, president, and CEO of Bell. “Testing at the MIZ showcases how Bell’s autonomous vehicles could seamlessly integrate into logistics operations and unlock new opportunities for businesses.“
Last fall, Bell Helicopter tested the APT 70 outfitted with Detect and Avoid (DAA) and Command and Control (C2) technologies, demonstrating systems that can enable future commercial unmanned flight in controlled and uncontrolled airspace.