Autonomous cargo transport

Bell Helicopter and Yamato Holdings are collaborating on how Bell’s Autonomous Pod Transport concept can be used for on-demand cargo delivery.
Bell Helicopter

Bell Helicopter and Yamato Holdings have announced a strategic collaboration “to be a global leader in electric vertical take-of and landing logistics”.

The companies plan to work together to “integrate innovative autonomous unmanned vehicle systems and package handling systems” for on-demand logistics services and said they expect to introduce an initial product into service by the mid-2020s.

Initial activities will involve Bell leading the design, development and production of its Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) concept and Yamato developing a customised detached pod to highlight future ground-handling capabilities. The companies’ goal is to demonstrate how vertical lift capabilities can be integrated with existing ground logistics to provide new ways of delivering goods.

Bell’s APT concept uses a ‘tailsitting’ electric vertical take-of configuration, which the company says is designed to reach speeds of more than 87kts (160km/h) and yet be able to transport payloads ranging in size from small packages weighing from as little as 15lb (6.8kg) to 1,000lb (453kg).

Meanwhile, Bell recently signed an agreement with NASA to demonstrate the APT as part of the efforts to integrate routine commercial UAV operations into the National Airspace System in the United States.

The demonstration will explore integrated command and control and detect and avoid technologies and the requirements related to commercial transport missions for medical, parapublic and off shore work. Mark Broadbent