The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Bell is developing a family of eVTOL aircraft under its Autonomous Pod Transport program. The first of these, the APT 70, made a first autonomous flight in Fort Worth, Texas, on August 26, 2019. In mid-2020, the aircraft is due to take part in NASA's Systems Integration and Operationalization demonstration that will simulate commercial missions in the U.S. National Airspace System and include beyond visual line of sight operations. Bell is working with Yamato to integrate the Japanese logistics group’s package handling system with the APT 70, with the goal of beginning commercial operations by the early 2020s.

The APT concept consists of a payload pod that is attached via pylons to two wings, each fitted with four or eight propellers powered by electric motors. The intention is that both pods and batteries can be quickly changed out between missions.

The APT 70 is intended to carry up to 70 pounds for up to 35 miles, or, with extra batteries fitted, up to 50 miles with a 35-pound payload. Without a payload, it will fly up to 65 miles. On November 18, 2019, Bell announced that it had achieved a 60-pound payload during flight testing and would soon attempt to carry the full 70-pound payload.

On January 16, 2020, the APT 70 prototype made its first beyond visual line of sight flight. Operating under the FAA-approved Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program, it flew 10 miles in the Choctaw Nation test site in the U.S. It has also completed an 18 mile flight with a 60 pound payload at Bell's testing site near Fort Worth, Texas. As of February 17, 2020, the APT 70 had made over 120 flights and Bell said the program will continue to test the vehicle's endurance and range, while also expanding its mission capability. 

On September 30, 2020, Bell announced that it had completed autonomous flight trials with the APT 70 as part of NASA's program to demonstrate the safe use of unmanned aircraft in the U.S. National Airspace System. The company has indicated it intends to offer the aircraft for applications such as medical support and logistics. It also has plans for a much larger version that could carry a payload of up to 1,000 pounds.

Timeline

Missed Projection

test flight

The APT 70 successfully completed autonomous operations in controlled Class B airspace in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Missed Projection

test flight

Plans to conduct flight trials as part of NASA's unmanned aircraft project were pushed back, due to Covid restrictions, from June 2020 until around the mid-fall timeframe.

Outlook

Our objective assessment of this program’s probable success.

FutureFlight assesses the probability of success for a new aircraft program by considering the following criteria:

  • Total investment funds available in proportion to the anticipated cost of getting an aircraft certified and in service
  • A company’s in-house capability (in terms of numbers of engineers, technical staff, and customer support teams)
  • The past experience of the company and its senior leadership in developing aircraft
  • The caliber and past experience of key program partners
  • Whether key aircraft systems have been selected and are available for use
  • Whether the preliminary design review has been completed
  • Whether the design for the full-scale prototype has been completed
  • Whether the type certification process has been formally initiated with an appropriate regulator
  • Whether the company has achieved a first flight with a full-scale prototype
  • The number of hours logged in a flight test program
  • Whether type certification has been achieved
  • The number of orders and commitment received for the aircraft
  • Whether the company has adequate facilities to begin series production of the aircraft
Our Methodology

The APT program appears to be a priority project for Bell, which certainly has the capability to bring the concept to commercial service. Its inclusion in a NASA-backed development program provides a further boost to its prospects.

The completion in September 2020 of flight trials in Class B airspace as part of the NASA program is a significant validation of the aircraft's autonomous operations capability. Announcing the milestone, the company indicated it has a concerted plan to take the vehicle into commercial service.

Bell Autonomous Pod Transport Models

APT 70 Specifications

autonomous vtol Tiltwing

Performance

  • Passenger Capacity
    n/a
  • Range
    65 mi
  • Cruise Speed
    100 mph
  • Powerplant Type
    n/a
  • Power Source
    electric
  • Endurance
    55 min
  • Max Altitude
    n/a
  • Takeoff Distance
    n/a
  • Landing Distance
    n/a
  • Empty Weight
    n/a
  • MGTOW
    n/a
  • Payload Weight
    70 lb

Dimensions

  • Length
    n/a
  • Width
    n/a
  • Height
    n/a
  • Wingspan
    n/a

Bell is developing a family of eVTOL aircraft under its Autonomous Pod Transport program (APT). The first of these, the APT 70, made a first autonomous flight in Fort Worth, Texas, on August 26, 2019. In mid-2020, the aircraft is due to take part in NASA's Systems Integration and Operationalization demonstration, which will simulate commercial missions in the U.S. National Airspace System and will include beyond visual line of sight operations. Bell is working with Yamato to integrate the Japanese logistics group’s package handling system with the APT 70, with the goal of beginning commercial operations by the early 2020s.

The APT concept consists of a payload pod that is attached via pylons to two wings, each fitted with four or eight propellers powered by electric motors. The intention is that both pods and batteries can be quickly changed out between missions.

The APT 70 can carry up to 70 pounds for up to 35 miles, or, with extra batteries fitted, up to 50 miles with a 35-pound payload. Without a payload, it will fly up to 65 miles.

Key Personnel

Scott Drennan
J. Scott Drennan

Vice President of Innovation