Bell Helicopters to build drone that can carry 1,000 pounds of cargo

Bell Helicopters Autonomous Pod Transport
Bell Helicopters’ design for an Autonomous Pod Transport. Bell photo.

Bell Helicopters intends to market a drone that can carry 1,000 pounds of cargo. Their plan is to make multiple models with various capacities, from 50 up to 1,000 pounds. The company does not call it a drone, of course. It will be an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle — specifically, an Autonomous Pod Transport (APT). Bell is working with Yamato Holding Co., Ltd. who will design the removable pod for the cargo.

Bell’s APT will utilize a tail-sitting eVTOL configuration and a payload pod. It should reach speeds of more than 100 mph and can be small enough to handle loads up to 15 pounds, or large enough to transport 1,000 pounds.

The companies say this is one way to deal with the truck driver shortage, since the “flying trucks” will increase efficiency because they won’t require conventional drivers (who are subject to hours of service regulations), they can move faster than traditional trucks, and they won’t have to deal with traffic.

They expect to produce the first prototype in August of 2019.

The Bureau of Land Management is moving quickly in their adoption of drones for surveillance and mapping, but so far the small machines have not been capable of transporting firefighting supplies or equipment.

Picture this. It is midnight. A couple of Hot Shot crews on extended attack in a remote area would like to conduct a firing operation on a slope leading down to a creek. A hose lay would increase their chances of success, and there’s water in the creek. Helicopters can’t haul cargo at night, so they request a call when needed Bell APT sitting at the helibase with 100-pound cargo capacity to bring in a small pump and two Gasner hose packs with nozzles, gated wyes, and a total of 400 feet of hose. That is enough to get the crews started installing the pump and the hose lay. The APT makes additional sorties as needed, bringing three Gasner packs and pump fuel on the second load. It might even bring in some food and drinking water if the crews have not eaten in the last 12 hours. Or fuel for chain saws and drip torches.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Bob.
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4 thoughts on “Bell Helicopters to build drone that can carry 1,000 pounds of cargo”

  1. As R.G. Letourneau famously said, “No job is too big. Your machines are just too small.”

  2. Picture this again:

    The Bell ATP is not at helibase, it’s at Supply…Where the supplies are. It lands and takes off near ground Support, and is treated like a truck that follows roads in the sky, and is loaded under the direction of the RCDM.

  3. I can think of many uses for aircraft like this, but the top of the list goes like this: You come home after a long day (or week) and unwind with your favorite adult beverage(s), catch up on emails and surf the internet. The next morning, you go about your normal routine and on your way out, you notice a box in the driveway. It’s smiling at you. The stuff you ordered in a stupor last night was delivered as you slept.

    As a gesture of good will, and a feel-good advertising opportunity, the “smiley-box people” might lend out the use of some of their fleet to first-responders and disaster-relief agencies. You know, to spread the smile – er, I mean, to help people.

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