The annual NBAA Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) is best known as a showcase for the latest business jets and turboprops. But this year, urban air mobility (UAM) concepts are also stealing the show.
Electric and hybrid-electric VTOL models are being highlighted in Las Vegas this week at an Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and UAM Innovation Display, new to NBAA-BACE. The show runs from Oct. 22 to 24 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Nevada.
Bell is one of the most conspicuous exhibitors in the Innovation Display, having brought its full-size mockup of the hybrid-electric Bell Nexus to the show. As Bell’s Glenn Isbell told NBAA TV, the company is targeting the Nexus squarely at the UAM space, offering “a way to efficiently, quietly get people from one side of an urban landscape to another.”
Another high-profile exhibitor is Airbus. Like Bell, Airbus has a thriving VIP helicopter business, but in the Innovation Display it is showcasing its single-seat Vahana eVTOL demonstrator. As reported earlier this month, the Vahana program has now completed more than 100 test flights, taking the aircraft from a hover to its design cruise speed of 100 knots.
Uber also has a strong presence at NBAA-BACE. The company is showcasing vehicle concepts as well as the air taxi cabin design it developed in partnership with Safran Cabin and unveiled earlier this year at the Uber Elevate Summit. Jaunt Air Mobility, which was announced as an Uber vehicle partner at the same summit, also has a model of its Reduced rotor Operating Speed Aircraft (ROSA) on display.
Other vehicle developers taking part in the Innovation Display include Boeing and XTI Aircraft, which is showcasing a model of its hybrid-electric TriFan 600 VTOL business aircraft. Honeywell is also an exhibitor, touting the solutions it can offer to developers of both hybrid and fully electric UAM aircraft.
Enthusiasm for this emerging space was expressed not only by NBAA-BACE attendees, but also day one keynote speakers including H. Ross Perot, Jr., who is working with Uber on its Elevate program. He told NBAA TV, “When I look at the prototypes, and I look at the ideas coming, and I talk to the inventors, I’m not sure we’ve ever had a more exciting time to be in aviation than right now in the United States.”