At the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) show in Las Vegas in early January, Bell demonstrated a model-sized cityscape with scale flying versions of its Nexus passenger air taxi and Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) operating with Bell’s AerOS urban air mobility operating system.
Calling it a “smart city ecosystem,” Bell president and CEO Mitch Snyder explained, “This year, we’re demonstrating what governing, operating, working, and living in a smart city will look like.”
Bell’s service is powered by Bell AerOS, a proprietary system running on Microsoft Azure created to manage fleet information, observe aircraft health, and manage throughput of goods, products and predictive data and maintenance. This digital infrastructure is prevalent in Bell’s Smart City vision at the show and serves the company’s goal of providing Mobility as a Service (MaaS).
Bell has also settled on a smaller version of its Nexus passenger vehicle, with four rotors instead of the six previously shown at CES 2019. The aircraft features Bell’s signature powered-lift concept with four tilting ducted fans that can be configured as hybrid-electric or all-electric. Bell believes this design unlocks the key for all electric technology, but the vehicle will remain “propulsion agnostic” depending on customer needs.
At CES, the smart city demo included tablet stations where visitors could interact with AerOS, choosing departure and destination, and then watching in real-time how the flying models interacted. The AerOS software constantly assesses demand across the scale-size city and deploys vehicles accordingly, while also taking into account problems that inevitably come up during passenger and cargo flying operations, such as weather events that might require all vehicles to land immediately. AerOS uses goal-seeking optimization algorithms and artificial intelligence to anticipate passenger behavior and desires as determined from the booking engine and the vehicle’s needs for battery recharging to meet the flight schedule. “We are working on modeling simulation tools now. We need to do better than have a good model, but we have tools in-process to refine and update that without an army of PhD data scientists. This solves the digital backbone need of aerial mobility.”
Why it’s important: In a world where nearly 70 percent of the population will be living in urban areas by 2050 and cities are outgrowing their current transportations systems, the need for urban mobility solutions has never been greater. Fortunately, the transportation industry has reached an inflection point, and many of the world’s top minds are working toward solutions for the optimal smart city design. Bell is bringing a clear mission of finding solutions to the infrastructure challenges of tomorrow’s transportation networks.
Sources // AINonline; Bell