Bell is pursuing the development if its urban air taxi with the same rigor and discipline that it applies to a mainline helicopter program. That was the message from Bell director of innovation Scott Drennan at Heli-Expo in March. Drennan said Bell hopes to have a vehicle to market around 2025.
“We’re in a full-blown development program. We have a dedicated team that we are ramping up over the course of this year to about one hundred [team members]. We’re focused right now on system-level tests at full scale. We’re going to take an approach like we do on our full-scale vehicles. They have dedicated systems and full-size system level tests and then we integrate those across a demonstration platform,” Drennan said.
While Drennan is not prepared to say exactly which technologies Bell will be using on the final vehicle, he believes “all of your best learning occurs as you develop your prototypes and demonstrations” and that “lots of people are proving out their concepts” at this phase of development. He did say that early vehicles likely would rely on some form of hybrid electric propulsion. “We are not revealing the propulsion system right now, but we’re doing lots of tests on it as we speak and moving through our design cycle. If we also think it’s the right pathway to all electric, we will be ready for an all electric vehicle when the mission makes sense, where we’re starting out with that four- to five-place vehicle. So it’s going to be larger than the early [two seat] electric vehicles that you’ve seen come out, and we believe in adding range to the equation by having the hybrid electric units. So our vehicle will start out hybrid electric,” he said.