For the last 51 years, Las Vegas has played host to a delightful marvel named ‘The CES’. Last seen on January 8, 2019, CES was formerly an acronym for Consumer Electronics Show but has now become the official title. This year, the boring and cliched all-screen phones and fingerprint scanners were all pale in comparison to the linchpin presentation by Uber and Nexus. The two giants of their respective fields unveiled a full-size flying taxi concept at the trade show, envisioned by aircraft company Bell.
Enter, the Bell Nexus!
Known as the Bell Nexus, the concept showcases a 600 pound (roughly 272 kg) hybrid aircraft with a theoretical mileage of 241 kilometers. Even in the concept stage, there is a powertrain in the vehicle capable of powering all the six rotors that lie aboard. While Uber has portrayed several such flying taxis before, Bell is the first aircraft company to partner with them in their endeavor towards flying taxi networks. And even though this is the first time that Bell has developed an electronic vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle, they have a strong portfolio in their field and have been at the forefront of aviation technology.
What Uber says
The taxi network giant plans to bring the UberAir flying taxi service to the commercial forefront of urban transport within four years. Using the smartphone app, passengers will be collected from rooftops of tall office buildings, multi-story car parks, or shopping centers.
Further, the company has stated that UberAir service is not intended solely for the elite and could be a reality for as much as just a third higher than regular taxis. Whether the claim can stand after four years and with the challenges to the flying taxi concepts that lie ahead remains to be seen, but the prospect of aerial transport to avoid gridlocks is an interesting prospect nonetheless.
Autopilot and safety aspects in a flying taxi
For now, Bell has claimed that they are working on auto-pilot and self-flying capabilities. Therefore, the prototype can seat at most three passengers and a pilot, though the company plans to simplify the currently advanced flying equipment and bring down possible complications that can arrive.
When asked about the safety of passengers in commercial operations, Bell shared that the Bell Nexus is designed such that it can easily fly safely and sufficiently in the event that one of its rotors fail. Further, they haven’t ignored the chances of engine malfunction and there is an onboard battery that has enough juice to automatically kick in and give enough power to land the aircraft safely.
The manufacturing process, as well as the design of the aircraft, is made as simple as possible which should improve maintenance costs during large-scale operations. The company reportedly teamed up with partners from France to assemble propulsion and control system.
Just imagining and dreaming about flying over the city one day and avoiding the traffic snarls of metropolitan areas sounds really cool. Furthermore, with a majority of the population involved in office work, the flying car and taxi concept makes special sense in office hours to avoid being late to work. The population boom also demands such a concept and therefore, the future looks bright indeed.
However, there are several challenges that need to be overcome before this can see the light of day. Bell is reported to be in talks with the FAA to create regulations and there will be a need for special infrastructures within the city to ensure safe flying. Until then, we can sit back and dream of a futuristic era that draws nearer by the passing hour.