Bell’s Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) 70 cargo drone has completed its first beyond visual line of sight flight, traveling along a 10-mile (16-kilometer) path at the Choctaw Nation test site in rural southeastern Oklahoma.
Completed on Jan. 16, the trial was conducted under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program (UASIPP). It is a key milestone as Bell works toward its target of flying the APT 70 beyond visual line of sight through the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area later this year, part of NASA’s Systems Integration and Operationalization demonstration activity for UAS.
“Our partnership with Choctaw under the UASIPP has allowed us to push the boundaries on our eVTOL technology,” stated John Wittmaak, Bell’s UAS program manager. “By unlocking new performance capabilities, APT 70 will provide unparalleled mission sets for our customers.”
The fully electric APT 70 is one of a scalable family of autonomous aircraft that Bell is developing for missions including package delivery, critical medical transport, and disaster relief. Bell has also been exploring military logistics applications for these tailsitter drones.
According to Bell, the APT 70 program has now completed more than 120 test flights, including an 18-mile (29-km) flight with a 60-pound (27-kilogram) payload at Bell’s testing site near Fort Worth, Texas. The company said it will continue to test the vehicles’ endurance and range capabilities, and expand their mission sets.