With a sleek silver body, futuristic blades and artificial intelligence for the pilot, Bell Helicopter unveiled its helicopter concept for the future.
The FCX-001, on display this week at the Heli-Expo in Dallas, doesn’t actually fly. But the concept aircraft gives Bell’s engineers a way to show off technology being developed at its headquarters complex in Fort Worth.
“We’ve been doing a lot of technology for over a year now and people keep asking, ‘Is it real or not?’” said Bell’s chief executive, Mitch Snyder. “This is a way for us to not show everything we’re working on, but give people a glimpse, lift the curtain up a little bit, and show them what we’re doing.”
Snyder said some the technologies are closer to reality than others and added that the company was excited to reveal a helicopter body that doesn’t look anything like a previous Bell helicopter.
Attendees at the Heli-Expo can sit inside the FCX-001 and, through virtual reality headgear, experience what it would be like as a passenger or pilot on the aircraft. The passenger cabin features individualized entertainment where passengers can watch a movie, hold a video conference or share documents with other passengers while in flight.
Pilots can control the FCX-001 through augmented reality with an artificial intelligence computer assistance program, said Scott Drennan, director of innovation at Bell. The aircraft also has a new anti-torque system in the tail boom designed to improve safety, and blade tips that can move back and forth.
“You can get better performance with different radius on your blades and you can also affect the noise signature as well,” Drennan said.
The airframe is made from advanced sustainable materials, as engineers at Bell look at designs that are more energy efficient.
“It doesn’t fly yet,” Drennan said of the FCX-001, noting that it’s a mock-up and not a product prototype. “It’s a vision of the future technology that Bell is focused on and that we’re going to bring to bear on the market.”