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The Bell Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) 70 multicopter drone has completed its first beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight, traveling along a 10-mile path at Choctaw Nation test site under the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program (UASIPP).
The trial, completed on Jan. 16, is one of over 120 flights Bell has now performed with the APT 70, including an 18-mile flight with a 60-pound payload at Bell’s testing site near Fort Worth, Texas.
“Our partnership with Choctaw under the UASIPP has allowed us to push the boundaries on our eVTOL technology,” said John Wittmaak, program manager, UAS. “By unlocking new performance capabilities, APT 70 will provide unparalleled mission sets for our customers.”
APT 70 is part of the eVTOL family of vehicles Bell is developing, capable of rotation and translation in flight to achieve high speeds and long-range flight.
Targeting both military and civilian third-party logistics applications, Bell has worked on the APT in two sizes: APT 20 (which can carry up to 20-pound/nine-kilogram loads), and the APT 70 (which can transport loads weighing up to 70 pounds (32 kilograms).
The aircraft are designed to be fully autonomous, taking off vertically before rotating 90 degrees on the pitch axis to transition to forward flight, then flying along waypoints on a predetermined route. It transitions back to vertical flight for its landing.
Bell announced the first autonomous flight of the APT 70 in August 2019.