While much fanfare has accompanied the unveiling of the Bell Air Taxi in the past months, hardly any insight has been provided into the technical design process or details of the air taxi.

Bell is a partner in the Uber Elevate initiative, who is targeting a 2023 launch. Accordingly, Bell needs to have their air taxi ready for testing in two years.

Before working on Bell’s Air Taxi, Kyle Heironimus, an electric-propulsion lead at Bell, worked on the UH-1 Iroquois, V-22 Osprey and the 505 Jet Ranger X. Here are some excerpts from an interview with Avionics International that describe the design process and details at Bell:

Walk me through your day-to-day at Bell.

I currently function as the Bell air taxi electric-propulsion lead. My typical day is spent interfacing with our multi-disciplinary team within Bell and with a wide range of typical and non-typical aviation suppliers. Right now, I see my job as helping to pull together all of the various technical experts required to bring a hybrid electric propulsion system to life.

Explain the strategy behind the plan to put hybrid-electric propulsion on the air taxi.

We see the flexibility that a hybrid-electric system provides as necessary to build an aircraft that meets the full range of missions that we are going to fly. Of course, battery electric VTOL aircraft are already flying; however, their capabilities are significantly limited by the batteries available today. Simply put, today’s batteries are too heavy for a meaningful VTOL mission. We believe that demonstrating a hybrid-electric propulsion system positions us and our partners to take advantage of the best of current propulsion technology as well as new emerging electric motor and control technology.

Is Bell developing all of the avionics in house or working with vendors?

Bell is working with a variety of industry partners, including our own in-house experts to evaluate the best path forward for the platform. We certainly aren’t the only ones who want to shape this new market.

Heironimus with a Bell 505. Photo courtesy of Bell

Project five years from now: What will be the most significant change?

From my standpoint, increased power and energy density of electric propulsion and control components will be key to unlocking eVTOL. I certainly don’t hold the crystal ball, but in five years I hope to see components and systems reaching weights that are not only economically viable for specific missions, but are so good that they supplant legacy solutions in cost, weight and performance. Bell is well on its way to designing and certifying eVTOL aircraft.

Why it’s important: Bell is a leader in the vertical flight industry, but has kept most of the developments of their Air Taxi under wraps. The only public reveal to date is of their proposed cabin concept, which drew a large amount of attention. If the Uber Elevate goal of 2023 is to be met, expect Bell unveiling their Air Taxi by 2020, at the latest – the quantity of flight testing required to certify and commercially implement these air taxis in urban areas across the world is almost as large a task as successfully designing and manufacturing them.

Learn more about the Bell Air Taxi here.


  • Avionics International

Posted by Naish Gaubatz

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