Bell is partnering with Japan Airlines and Sumitomo Corporation to explore development of an on-demand air mobility ecosystem in Japan using Bell’s Nexus 4EX eVTOL air taxi.
The companies on Feb. 11 announced a memorandum of understanding to develop policy and planning recommendations, identify entry into service use cases and pilot programs, and develop infrastructure requirements to enable “mobility as a service” (MaaS).
“We are excited to take this substantial step to bring together an international airline, a major infrastructure provider, and a VTOL OEM to work collaboratively on a more connected mobility future,” stated Scott Drennan, Bell’s vice president of Innovation, in a press release.
Sumitomo is a Japan-based Fortune 500 company with broad business interests spanning metal products, transportation and construction systems, infrastructure, media and digital products, real estate, mineral resources, energy, and chemicals. According to Eiji Ishida, executive officer of Sumitomo’s Lease, Ship & Aerospace business division, the company has been “inspired by Bell’s vision and their capability of penetrating into this urban air mobility market.”
Japan Airlines, for its part, is “eager to explore the future of air travel beyond its existing framework, and we believe this is the right team to set the standard in Japan for future cities to implement urban air mobility systems,” stated Tomohiro Nishihata, Japan Airlines’ managing executive officer of Innovation.
Bell unveiled its Nexus 4EX air taxi concept at CES 2020 in January. It is a four-ducted, fully electric evolution of the original six-ducted, hybrid-electric Nexus revealed last year, now called the 6HX.
At the same time, Bell also announced its expansion into urban air mobility software with AerOS, an aerospace operating system that includes both a booking engine to allow customers to request a ride in an eVTOL, and a comprehensive fleet management system.
According to Drennan, while Bell is “known for our 80 years of creating vertical-lift aircraft that move people, goods, and data, we also want to help shape the operational infrastructure in which they will live,” and the collaboration with Japan Airlines and Sumitomo will help advance that goal.
Bell is already partnering with another Japan-based company, the third-party logistics provider Yamato, on the Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) family of eVTOL cargo drones. Yamato has designed a cargo pod attachment for Bell’s APT drones, which have been conceived as vehicles for package delivery as well as critical medical transport and disaster relief.