In the race to provide viable, aerial solutions to move goods and information, Bell’s Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) surpassed a significant step in this journey: beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight. Delivering goods and information to critical – sometimes inaccessible – locations calls for an aircraft that can fly autonomously, over long distances and land vertically. At the beginning of the year, Bell’s APT proved that it can handle this type of flight through its first BVLOS flight carrying 60lbs of payload at a testing site in Oklahoma.
This new development is made possible through Bell’s partnership with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO). In an agreement announced in late 2019, CNO and Bell announced that Bell had joined CNO’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program (UASIPP) team where flights and tests will be conducted as part of the FAA UASIPP in preparation for future advanced UAS operations. CNO is one of nine active UASIPP sites selected by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in May 2018. Both organizations share an interest in the growth of technology to serve communities, which is why CNO has supported Bell APT flight testing on their test site location in rural, southeastern Oklahoma.
Bell and CNO signed an additional agreement in early 2020 to establish a relationship which will provide Bell a flight test location for Bell’s unmanned vehicles. CNO became the obvious choice for flight test activity for Bell because of its proximity to Dallas-Fort Worth and their commitment to building facilities that support requirements necessary for these operations. In return, Bell is providing guidance to CNO on the creation of their Emerging Aviation Technology Test Center in regard to safety and efficient flight operations.
Bell is eager to expand APT’s BVLOS flights to eventually support medical supply drops, basic supply chain operations and even kiosk deliveries. Our strong partnerships and continued innovation bring us closer to achieving this future goal, one flight at a time.
Thinking above and beyond is what we do. For more than 85 years, we’ve been reimagining the experience of flight – and where it can take us.
We are pioneers. We were the first to break the sound barrier and to certify a commercial helicopter. We were a part of NASA’s first lunar mission and brought advanced tiltrotor systems to market. Today, we’re defining the future of advanced air mobility.
Headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas – as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Textron Inc., – we have strategic locations around the globe. And with nearly one quarter of our workforce having served, helping our military achieve their missions is a passion of ours.
Above all, our breakthrough innovations deliver exceptional experiences to our customers. Efficiently. Reliably. And always, with safety at the forefront.
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Bell joins a consortium leading the project “Aircraft for the digital and green mobility of tomorrow."