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Farnborough 2018: Bell set to enter air taxi design phase

24th July 2018 - 08:29 GMT | by Tim Martin in Farnborough

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The next stage of development for Bell’s hybrid powered air taxi is in the offing, as the company begins to wind down a sustained period of work which has concentrated on the conceptual design of the vehicle.

Having recently announced an agreement with Safran that will see the engine manufacturer commit to providing the propulsion system on the aircraft, Mitch Snyder, CEO at Bell, told journalists during a briefing at the Farnborough International Airshow, that on-demand mobility partner Uber had been shown pieces of the latest air taxi design, as collaboration between the two ramps up.

‘I don’t think we have shown anyone the very latest design. We just want to hold off a little longer, because once we move to the preliminary design phase, that will include the architecture of the systems and what the vehicle looks. Then we will unveil it,’ he explained.

Despite such talk, no mention was made of the dynamic components that will be used in the vehicle, nor any other structural information beyond that which Bell has previously shown in their mock-up cabin design.

Flight testing of the vehicle is being targeted for the ‘early 2020s’ while Snyder raised the possibility that the vehicle may eventually use a fully electric architecture, after initial implementation of the hybrid electric design.

A prediction of this nature is however inconsistent with previous analysis from Safran which has suggested that electrically powered platforms 'flying beyond 30 minutes and carrying more than 100kg,' is unlikely inside the next 20 years. 

Snyder did confirm that obstacles to air taxi flight, particularly regulatory impediments, were being consistently discussed with the FAA, in the hope of clarifying and making progress on such issues.  

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