Autonomous Pod Transport (APT)
Fort Worth, Texas, USA

The Bell Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) is an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vectored thrust multicopter Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).

The APT uses gimbaled propellers at the each end of biplane-style wings. A cargo pod with bracket attachments sits between the wings. Under each rotor is a “vector thrust module” containing the batteries, speed controllers the motors for the propulsion system. An integrated avionics and sensor suite is embedded within the airframe. The APT is autonomous and designed to fly along predetermined routes.

There are two versions under development. The APT 20 carries a 20 lb (9 kg) payload and spans about 0.9 m long and 1.5 m wide. Its speed is up to 185 km/h with an 18 km range. It is easily disassembled and reassembled. The APT 70 carries a 70 lb (32 kg) payload and spans 1.8 m long and 2.75 m wide. Top speed is 222 km/h with a 30 km range. A third version for loads of 1,000 lbs (450 kg) is also being considered.

Bell is targeting both military and civilian third-party logistics applications saying third party logistics is projected to be a trillion dollar industry by 2020. The APT 20 with its quick reassembly is of particular interest to defense.

Tests of the APT will continue under its own experimental type certificate through 2019 for the FAA. A Systems Integration and Operationalism (SIO) contract won from NASA should allow demonstrations for beyond line of sight and detect and avoid capability in early 2020. The first autonomous flight for the APT 70 was on Aug. 26, 2019 near Fort Worth, Texas, USA.

Bell Autonomous Pod Transport
Bell Autonomous Pod Transport
Bell Autonomous Pod Transport

Specifications (APT 70):

  • Aircraft type: Autonomous eVTOL cargo drone
  • Piloting: Autonomous
  • Cargo: Cargo only
  • Maximum speed: 100 mph (161 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 75 mph (121 km/h)
  • Gross weight: 300 lbs (136 kg)
  • Maximum payload: 70 lbs (32 kg)
  • Payload, Range and Time Traveled examples:
    • One-way with payload: 70 lbs (32 kg), 35 miles (56 km), 30 minutes
    • Two-ways with payload: 70 lbs (32 kg), 15 miles (24 km), 27 minutes
    • Out with payload, return flight is empty: 70 lbs (32 kg), 18 miles (29 km), 32 minutes
    • One-way with payload and extra battery (35 lbs): 35 lbs (16 kg), 50 miles (80 km), 42 minutes
    • One way without payload and extra batteries (70 lbs): 0 lbs (0 kg), 65 miles (105 km), 55 minutes
  • Propellers: 4
  • Electric motors: 4
  • Wing configuration: Bi-plane wings