Bell Helicopter has a solid, if somewhat staid reputation in the aviation world. Last year it tried to remedy that with an edgy FX001 concept helicopter, and it is following that with this new Air Taxi proposal.
Bell is just one of many aviation firms that have jumped into the ‘air taxi’ space, largely because of Uber, which has shown an interest in conquering this market.
The Air Taxi concept can carry a pilot and three passengers (or four passengers depending on the mode of transport). Presumably, if autonomous, there would be an air traffic controller to monitor flights, just like one would a drone or a toy model aeroplane.
Only the cabin was on the display stand, with no rotors or winglets above or below the fuselage. As for the propulsion system, none was shown at CES.
Speaking to the press, Bell Director of Innovation, Scott Drennan, said, “We’re just keeping our particular propulsion system configuration to ourselves right now, to keep our competition on their heels.” Drennan did state that the concept would be electrically powered, so no jets in the air taxi future.
Drennan and the engineers at Bell anticipate that the Air Taxi will be part of the Internet of Things, seamlessly connected to all your devices.
“The customer will be experiencing a part of the Internet of Things as they travel in the vehicle, with the connectivity that’s going to happen from the place they took off from to the place they’re going, with the ability to connect to friends, workers, colleagues, et cetera,” explains Drennan.
Visitors to the Bell stand could try out the Air Taxi via virtual reality glasses. VIPs could sit in the cabin while taking their virtual trip. Bell claims to be the first helicopter manufacturer to visit CES, and judging by the reception the Air Taxi received, they will be back – and they will have plenty of aviation company.