Bell’s Nexus is its “air taxi” concept – a hybrid-electric propulsion aircraft using six tilting ducted fans to take off and land vertically from a rooftop or launchpad, the Verge reported.
Bell, known previously as Bell Helicopters, rebranded itself last year after having been one of the top manufacturers of commercial and military vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft for decades. The company is most known for the production of the V-22 Osprey and the forthcoming V-280 Valor. However, now it wants to make electric VTOL (eVTOL) aircraft, with the Nexus as its first foray into that futuristic market.
“This is not a toy,” Drennan told The Verge. “This is an aircraft you would feel safe and comfortable bringing your family into.” The large ducts hide the rotors, which should help ease any anxiety from customers about losing a limb from its fast-spinning blades, or in other words, “people who aren’t accustomed to VTOL type aircraft,” Drennan said.
Last year, Bell unveiled the cabin of the then-unnamed air taxi, while this year it produced a scale model. However, a workable prototype won’t be constructed until the company is on the cusp of launching a real service.
Drennan said the Nexus will be able to seat five people and has a gross weight capacity of 600 pounds (272 kilograms). The hybrid engine would allow the aircraft to fly further and carry more weight than an all-electric one.
“As we were looking at the available missions, whether it was air taxi, or logistics services, or even just applications in the military, we thought it was appropriate to get out into the longer range than just what the all-electric vehicles can do,” Drennan said.
However, only all-electric VTOL aircraft will be included in Uber’s air taxi service, said Mark Moore, engineering director of aviation at Uber, noting that the concept of Bell Nexus is an important “first step” toward an all-electric, fully commercial flying taxi service.
“This will permit testing to occur in the near-term, while the batteries are getting ready for all-electric solutions,” Moore said. “We’re very excited about what Bell is doing. There are many companies out there developing [eVTOL] demonstrators. At Uber, we’re facilitating this entirely new transportation system because we are the link to the users.”