Bell’s Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) 70 unmanned aircraft system (UAS/drone) successfully completed its first autonomous flight on Monday at the company’s testing site near Fort Worth, Texas. Bell says it intends to continue testing the APT 70 under an experimental type certificate for the rest of 2019 with the goal of holding a simulated commercial mission demonstration in 2020. The demonstration will take place as part of NASA’s Systems Integration and Operationalization (SIO) demonstration activity and will include beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight operations.
“We are excited to reach this milestone, and look forward to continuing to advance this technology for our customers,” said Bell Vice President of Engineering Innovation Scott Drennan. “The APT is designed to be capable of various mission sets, from package delivery to critical medical transport to disaster relief. We believe this capability will change the way unmanned aerial systems are used commercially in the future.”
The APT 70 electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) drone is expected to travel at greater than 100 MPH and carry a payload of 70 pounds. According to Bell, it will be capable of rapid deployment, quick reconfiguration, and fast battery swap and recharge.