“Hey man, it’s Dave. Your Uber’s on the roof.”
Prepare yourself for flying Ubers in the near future. Texas-based company Bell has revealed their design for the Bell Nexus, a helicopter/drone hybrid that could be summoned via Uber. If you’ve ever played Fallout, they’re basically Vertibirds.
After spending decades developing military aircraft like the V22 Osprey, Bell rebranded itself as a more modern tech company last year. The V22 and Bell Nexus are both vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (VTOL). Moving forward, Bell is switching towards electric-powered vehicles, with the Bell Nexus as the first experiment.
The Bell Nexus itself is not completely electric. It’s a hybrid, as Bell wanted to give additional power to the aircraft, allowing it to carry more weight and have a wider flight range.
The Bell Nexus uses six ducted fans to take off and land. Each fan can tilt independently, giving the aircraft precise mobility. The Bell Nexus’s cabin and ducts are designed so that passengers will not be able to see the fans while looking out the window, helping to convince them they won’t be shredded by the rotors.
Thankfully, the Bell Nexus will have a pilot to reassure passengers that they won’t plummet to earth, but Uber has stated that they hope all of their air taxis will be autonomous in the future. The aircraft can hold 272kg (600lbs), and Bell Nexus is open to repurposing the aircraft as a military vehicle in case the whole flying car craze never gets off the ground.
Bell is far from the only company developing air taxis, though their partnership with Uber gives them a crucial advantage. They’ll face off against startups like Kitty Hawk (lead by Google founder Larry Page) as well as industry giants like Boeing. Though the competition is heated, some experts worry about the viability of the flying taxi industry ever taking off. Infrastructure and regulations surrounding flying cars simply do not exist, and they won’t exist without the flying car industry becoming viable in the first place, creating a self-defeating prophecy.
Personally, I would love to see flying taxis take off, mostly for UberEats. How amazing would it be to summon a Big Mac through your own personal helicopter?