Bell Nexus 4EX eVTOL with hybrid-electric option, January 2020, USA.

Nexus 4EX
Bell
Fort Worth, Texas, USA
www.bellflight.com

At the Consumer Electronics Show 2020, January 7-10, held in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Bell revealed a full-scale mock-up of their second Nexus urban air mobility (UAM) aircraft, called the Nexus 4EX (four ducted propellers, all electric, experimental).

The Nexus 4EX has the flexibility to be 100% powered by electricity, an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, using batteries as a power source or if the customer needs more range, the aircraft be outfitted with a hybrid-electric power system. The first Bell Nexus model has been renamed as the Nexus 6HX (6 ducted propellers, hybrid-electric power train, experimental).

The top goals for the Bell Nexus program are safety, accessibility and sustainability.

  • Safety: Safety is top concern for Bell, using distributed electric propulsion (DEP) and sensors which can determine when before parts will fail.
  • Accessibility: Accessibility includes affordable UAM for the public and also allowing people of any age, weight or height to be able to fly in the aircraft.
  • Sustainability: Meaning, the aircraft needs to have clean power and have low a noise signature.

The Nexus 4EX eVTOL aircraft holds 4 passengers with luggage, one pilot (until autonomous flight is available, then the aircraft will hold five passengers), cruise speed of 150 mph (241 km/h) with a range of 60 miles (97 km). The aircraft has four ducted propellers, one main wing, tricycle landing gear, one rear rudder and weighs 7,000 lbs (3,175 kg). Bell is offering the flexibility for customers who request hybrid-electric power trains and the range for that aircraft would be greater than 150 miles (241 km).

It is interesting to note that during the Nexus program, Bell has done extensive indoor and outdoor testing with ducted fans, from trying different blade sizes, using various speeds and much more. Bell has found that ducted fans reduce noise and increase the efficiency of the propellers.

Bell has announced they will be in the business of running their own aerial ride sharing program for Urban Air Mobility (UAM). Bell also recognizes the complexity and efficiency of the physical parts and data sharing needed for a passenger and cargo UAM system to work safely without mistakes in an urban and suburban environment. This system will include aircraft needed for both passengers and cargo, the booking the flights and cargo, flight operations, affordability of flights, quiet aircraft, eco-friendly aircraft (no pollution), certification of all the aircraft and systems, a better manufacturing process, maintenance and repair needed, using the best technology possible and integrating the entire system with data sharing, so it works.

Bell has also announced they will be making urban air mobility software, called AerOS (an app to request UAM flight service), a comprehensive fleet management system (including aircraft health and charge status) and will be in the business of running their own aerial ride sharing program. Bell has also stated they are still an Uber Elevate partner using their Nexus aircraft for Uber Air UAM.

Bell’s complete UAM system will use artificial intelligence to anticipate ridership demand allowing early positioning of aircraft to meet those UAM needs, to project maintenance servicing times and to efficiently fly the aircraft through air routes in urban areas, avoiding all obstacles, including other aircraft. Bell also plans to offer their UAM app to any other company to operate their UAM flight services.

Bell has concluded that manufacturing the Nexus, maintaining the aircraft and operating the Nexus eVTOL as one company will not only make financial sense but increase safety because all the data, experience and know-how will be under one roof.

Bell plans on making three to four eVTOL prototypes before allowing production models fly with revenue paying passengers. Currently there are 70 Bell employees working on Nexus program.

For safety, the Nexus has distributed electric propulsion (DEP), having multiple motors and propellers distributed on the aircraft, that even if two ducted propellers fail, the aircraft can still land safely. Even though a total power failure is possible with any aircraft, Bell states with DEP and the redundancies in the Nexus 4EX flight systems, that a power failure would never happen.

Bell has a safety goal of 10-9 probability of failure, meaning that it has a statistical likelihood of only one failure every one billion hours of flight. This is the current safety standard used for commercial airliners. The safety of their urban aircraft will be to such high standards that an emergency parachute is not needed for the aircraft.

The Nexus 4EX is officially a demonstrator aircraft; however, Bell estimates after much testing is done with the aircraft, the next version will be the production aircraft. An important point which Bell recognizes is the cooperation that will be needed between the aircraft manufacturers, air taxi services, airports, local and federal government and other city key people/organizations, for UAM to work. Bell estimates they will have a working production model ready for paying passengers in the middle to late 2020s.

Specifications:

  • Aircraft type: eVTOL or hybrid-electric VTOL
  • Pilot: Piloted until autonomous flying is available
  • Capacity: 4 passengers with luggage and 1 pilot; when autonomous flight is available, will hold 5 passengers
  • Cruise speed: 150 mph (241 km/h)
  • Range: 60 miles (97 km)
  • Hybrid-electric range: More than 150 miles (241 km)
  • Weight of aircraft: 7,000 lbs (3,175 kg)
  • Propellers: 4 ducted propellers
  • Propeller diameter: 8 feet
  • Propulsion: 4 electric motors
  • Power source: Batteries or another source, depending upon customer requirements
  • Dimensions: 40 X 40 feet (12.2 X 12.2 meters)
  • Fuselage: Composite
  • Window: Large wrap around window for spectacular views for the passengers
  • Wing type: One rear high wing
  • Tail: Vertical rudder, no horizontal flaps
  • Landing gear: Tricycle landing gear
  • Safety features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), means having multiple propellers and motors on the aircraft which provides safety through redundancy for its passengers. If 1 or 2 motors/propellers fail, the other working motors/propellers can safely land the aircraft. There are also other redundant flight systems on the Nexus 4EX.

Resources:

Videos:

Tags:

BellVectored ThrustInitial Design, 4-5 Passengers, Electric/Batteries, Hybrid-Electric, AutonomousPiloted, AirTaxi, VFS Member

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