Bell has conducted a further round of flight trials with its Autonomous Pod Transport APT70 large-cargo drone. The unmanned aircraft system (UAS) flew a four-mile circuit in the AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone (MIZ) near the rotorcraft manufacturer’s Fort Worth headquarters and delivered a package to a landing area.
The MIZ Flight Test Center is being offered as a location for developing air mobility technology. The Hillwood real estate group owns the facility, which is part of a 27,000-acre AllianceTexas site. The site includes the Fort Worth Alliance Airport and an extensive business park where more than 525 companies are located.
The latest flight test involved the APT70 taking off from the MIZ and flying through complex airspace before landing in the Pecan Square community in Northlake, Texas. After a vertical takeoff, the unmanned aircraft rotated to cruise on its wing at an altitude of 300 feet. Its route took it close to the I-35W highway and in and out of Class D and Class G airspace.
“This successful test of Bell’s APT at the AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone highlights the potential for UAS to complete complex missions, moving the needle closer to connecting logistics operations directly to consumers,” commented Hillwood chairman Ross Perot Jr. “Together, we are carving a path forward for future commercial operations to solve the supply challenges the world currently faces.”
According to Bell, data from its APT70 demonstrations will be used to develop standards for unmanned aircraft and FAA certification guidelines. The all-electric APT can fly at up to around 100 mph, carrying payloads of at least 70 pounds.
"Bell is continuing to focus on maturing the technology, business and technical requirements, regulations, and supporting ecosystem to enable a wide range of applications for the Autonomous Pod Transport," a company spokeswoman explained to FutureFlight. "We have several demonstrations lined up this year to showcase various capabilities to potential customers."
Bell is also developing a four-passenger eVTOL aircraft called the Nexus 4X that will fly up to around 150 miles. The current all-electric design, with four ducted fans, was unveiled in January 2020, but since then the U.S. manufacturer has not released a timeline for service entry or an update on progress with the project.
Hillwood and Bell have formed a public-private partnership called the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition to support advanced air mobility initiatives in north Texas. The group has the support of several local city governments and civic leaders.