Bell FCX-001 Concept Takes a Whirl at the Future

The Bell FCX-001 — with virtual reality controls for the pilot — is a futuristic look at what helicopter aircraft could look like.

Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopter has been showcasing its futuristic FCX-001 concept helicopter this week at the Heli-Expo at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, and it’s anything but a typical whirlybird.

The innovative design has a sleek silver body, modernistic morphing rotor blades, and uses artificial intelligence for the pilot, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. The Expo, which ends Friday, is sponsored by the Helicopter Association International.

The prototype on display doesn’t actually fly, but it does show off new technologies developed by Bell engineers at the company’s headquarters facility in northeast Fort Worth.

“We’ve been doing a lot of technology for over a year now and people keep asking, ‘Is it real or not?’”
Bell CEO Mitch Snyder

“We’ve been doing a lot of technology for over a year now and people keep asking, ‘Is it real or not?’” Bell’s CEO Mitch Snyder told the Star-Telegram. “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.”

He said some of the technologies involved in the concept aircraft are nearer to reality than others.

The newspaper said the attendees can sit in the prototype and experience what a pilot experiences via virtual reality headwear.

According to the Bell website, here are some of the innovative technologies and features that the FCX could use to revolutionize helicopter air travel.

  • A new anti-torque system in the tail boom designed to change the safety, noise and performance parameters of vertical lift aircraft forever.
  • Hybridized propulsion combines advanced thermal engine cores for the main propulsion with, for example, electric distribution and motors to drive the anti-torque system for more control and simpler vehicle operations and maintenance.
  • An airframe that is made from advanced sustainable materials to provide structural performance and offer configurations that  customers desire. In order to provide enhanced situational awareness, visibility and room, Bell is exploring the right combination of material and geometry. The airframe also is Bell’s front line for energy management where the company harvests, stores, attenuates and distributes external energy or system energy not already employed for useful work on the aircraft.
  • A landing gear with non-traditional geometries that facilitates function when combined with advanced materials and actuation.
  • Morphing rotor blades that allow aircraft to optimize performance in different flight regimes. 
  • A single pilot seat and an entirely new flight deck experience with the pilot controlling the aircraft through augmented reality and an artificial intelligence computer assistance system.
  • A highly modular passenger cabin enhanced with the same augmented reality technology for individualized infotainment to catch up on world news, hold a video conference call, share documents with other passengers or simply watch a movie or play music to relax.

 

This artist’s concept shows the FCX-001 flying over the city of Toronto. [Photo Courtesy Bell Helicopter]

Bell

The interior of the Bell FCX-001 is ultra-modern. [Photo Courtesy Bell Helicopter]


 

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