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Bell Helicopter FCX-001

Triton

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"Bell Helicopter Continues to Shape the Future of Vertical Lift"
March 07, 2017

Source:
http://investor.textron.com/news/news-releases/press-release-details/2017/Bell-Helicopter-Continues-to-Shape-the-Future-of-Vertical-Lift/default.aspx

HELI-EXPO 2017 – Dallas, TX (March 7, 2017) Bell Helicopter, a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company, unveiled today its vision for the future of rotorcraft – the FCX-001. This is Bell Helicopter’s first concept aircraft and presents a 3-D roadmap for delivering safer, smarter and more efficient rotorcraft solutions.

To download images of the FCX-001, please follow this link.
https://textron.app.box.com/s/w9ueq16feezcszawch8wkn2zm4gjzgvz

“For the past 80 years, Bell Helicopter has imagined the art of the possible and brought those dreams to life,” Bell Helicopter’s President and CEO Mitch Snyder said during the opening ceremony at the HAI Heli-Expo. “Six months ago we created a dedicated team to focus on emerging technologies and how we could incorporate them into our products. Among that team’s first tasks was to display visually the technologies and innovations that present a roadmap that we envision bringing to market.”

Bell Helicopter formed a core group of engineers and a team of graphic designers that proved to be a highly collaborative team of problem solvers. It was through this process that the FCX-001, a concept aircraft, came to light to physically demonstrate a new way of thinking.

The concept aircraft was built to address the evolving demands of our customers and demonstrate key technologies that revolutionize the pilot and passenger experience, including:

  • 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 our customers desire. In order to provide enhanced situational awareness, visibility and room, we are exploring the right combination of material and geometry. The airframe is also our front line for energy management where we harvest, store, attenuate and distribute external energy or system energy not already employed for useful work on the air vehicle.
  • A landing gearwithnon-traditional geometries that facilitate function when combined with advanced materials and actuation.
  • Morphing rotor bladesthatallow 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 cabinenhanced 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.

“Being a pioneer in the aircraft industry is in our DNA and we want to share this renewed passion with the world. The FCX-001 points the way for our future – a renewed focus on innovative solutions and technologies. When the time is right we look forward to sharing more of what we’re doing behind closed doors,” added Snyder.
 

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Triton

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Source:
https://textron.app.box.com/s/w9ueq16feezcszawch8wkn2zm4gjzgvz
 

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Triton

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Bell Helicopter​ FCX001 concept helicopter prototype from Heli Expo​ 2017

Published on Mar 7, 2017

Rotorcraft Pro​ brings you Bell Helicopter​ FCX001 concept helicopter prototype from Heli Expo​ 2017!

https://youtu.be/aEENC9j8jyc
 

ZacYates

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Wow. It's like something out of the 80s, augmented reality controls aside. I like it.

"•A new anti-torque system " - I wonder if they mean "new to Bell" or something that's different to NOTAR?
 

Grey Havoc

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ZacYates said:
Wow. It's like something out of the 80s, augmented reality controls aside. I like it.

"•A new anti-torque system " - I wonder if they mean "new to Bell" or something that's different to NOTAR?

Indeed. In addition it looks like something that would be at home in something like, say, the Shadowrun universe.

As to the new torque system, I wonder if it has anything to do with dynamic microprocessors/active fuselage control? Just an idle thought.
 

Triton

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Mock-up of Bell FCX-001 concept on display at Heli-Expo 2017 in Dallas.

Source:
https://twitter.com/rotorandwing/status/839160557978730497
https://twitter.com/HelenHaxell/status/839190885459980289
https://twitter.com/WireMasters/status/839215114498752512
https://twitter.com/EAST_WEST_IND/status/839209418025799680
https://twitter.com/avionica_ceta/status/839184003622125568
 

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Triton

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Source:

https://twitter.com/RTHastingsJr/status/839161269819215873
https://twitter.com/andy_osantowske/status/839185212772876291
http://www.avm-mag.com/bell-helicopter-unveils-fcx-001-concept-rotorcraft/
 

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I

Ian33

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Christ above that's a stunner!

What a magnificent looking machine. Hat doffed in admiration!
 

yasotay

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Not for old pilots! Not sure I would want to sit in back and watch the ...pilot wave their hands around in space. :eek:

Seriously though an interesting concept, glad to see Bell stepping out. Very surprising to me given their parent corporations well know conservatism.
 

Triton

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"HELI-EXPO: Bell unveils FCX concept helicopter"
07 March, 2017 SOURCE: Flightglobal.com BY: Dominic Perry Fort Worth

Source:
https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/heli-expo-bell-unveils-fcx-concept-helicopter-434840/

Bell Helicopter has taken the wraps off a new concept rotorcraft at this year’s Heli-Expo, designed to showcase the manufacturer’s renewed focus on innovation under the direction of chief executive Mitch Snyder.

Although never destined for production or even flight test, the Future Concept Helicopter – or FCX – features several technological advances that Bell believes will eventually be employed on its products.

Aside from its futuristic looks – which, curiously, resemble the early concept sketches for the X4 produced by what was then Eurocopter – the real leap forward is in the cockpit, where Bell envisages doing away with traditional controls – gone are the collective and cyclic levers and foot pedals – and display screens. Instead, the aircraft is highly automated and is flown via augmented reality projected on to a pilot-worn head-up display.

“We think it’s all going to be on a head-up display. That’s where we believe the industry is going,” says Scott Drennan, director of innovation at Bell.

“Let the computers do the dumb, dirty and dull. We are talking about an aircraft that’s controlled through augmented reality.”

In a further twist, the cockpit is configured for only single-pilot operation, with a centrally mounted seat.

The biggest visible difference to the helicopter’s exterior is the lack of a tail rotor, which both saves weight and improves external safety. Anti-torque control is provided by what Bell calls a “cross-flow fan” – a series of electrically driven fans mounted in the tail boom.

Although Bell sees power for the main rotor as still being provided by a pair of conventional gas-turbine engines, Drennan says the design “looks to be the quickest way to chase down hybridisation on a traditional platform”.

The system lends itself to hybrid power, he notes, as electric motors prefer to run at the higher speeds required.

In addition to the basic anti-torque function, the cross-flow fan provides a degree of thrust vectoring, allowing the removal of stabilisers on the tail boom. Weight is saved by the lack of transmission or gearboxes required to power a tail rotor.

Bench tests of a version of the cross-flow fan and an electric power system have already begun, says Drennan, but scaled for a helicopter the size of a “long, light single”.

The 16in (40cm)-diameter fans developed so far have good thrust per horsepower, he says, “values which make us think it’s viable”. The next step will be to work with an engine manufacturer to integrate the hybrid system, he says.

Bell investigated the possibility of using an electrically driven conventional tail rotor – whether open or shrouded - but, Drennan says, “we thought that for a future vision we would like something that takes that completely off the table."

Although at first glance the main rotor appears normal, albeit with swept-back blade tips, here too Bell proposes an innovative solution.

Instead of blades permanently fixed in one configuration, Drennan says it is investigating the use of “morphing” technology to allow the blade tips to be moved depending on the flight phase.

Bell has a history of “transformative” aircraft, he says, pointing to its multiple tiltrotor developments. “We want to leverage that history, but instead of configurational changes we want to look at detailed morphing technology.

“Can we get the geometry of the blades to change in flight? That way would get more efficiency in the hover, but in forward flight could change them by sweeping them back a little bit.”

It is, he says, “another exercise in advanced actuation”. That principle can also be applied to the engine air intakes, which, if the pilot could alter their size or orientation in flight, might yield better engine performance, he suggests.

The overall look of the FCX is striking, a conscious decision by its designers to “distance ourselves from the current aesthetic”, says Levi Bilbrey, Bell senior brand strategist.

“The styling is more reminiscent of a luxury sports car while still keeping it sleek and aerodynamic,” he says.

In terms of size, the concept model is slightly longer and wider than the current 412 and is sized for eight passengers, “but it’s about what we are cuing up for the future,” says Drennan, referring to the concept as a “new medium twin”

Bell’s renewed focus on innovation is, Snyder says, an attempt to reconnect with the company’s proud history of aviation milestones.

“Our legacy has always been innovation – look at the firsts we have pioneered. Let’s embrace that past and bring it in to today and drive it in a different direction,” he says.

The FCX is designed to showcase the ideas it is working on, offering “a glimpse of what we are doing behind the scenes”.

“It is different, but it’s a different Bell,” he says.

The concept is about pushing both the industry and Bell to “take it to a new level” and about imagining the future 15-20 years away. “Unless we are putting our money into it now, it won’t be ready then,” he notes.

FCX was born from an innovation team set up by Snyder about 12 months ago with the express intention of breaking down barriers between the occasionally opposed design and engineering departments.

Drennan says his team’s mission is to “explore, experiment and exploit”.

“Let’s explore the physics of the technology out there, let’s experiment with them and let’s exploit them,” he says.

If you strip out the slightly hyperbolic language, what Drennan means is that the innovation team is there to identify problems or solutions, rapidly build concepts and bring them to a high technology readiness level.

Key to the effort, however, was getting the two departments – specialists in distinct disciplines – to work hand-in-hand.

“It turns out that engineers need a push towards the sci-fi and the creative folks need a push the other way [in order to] to build an aircraft that’s safe and functional,” says Drennan.

Bilbrey, meanwhile, comes from the more creative side of the fence. He says there was a “little bit of hesitancy” from both groups initially, but that quickly evaporated.

“We moved a little closer to the engineering position and they moved closer to what looks aesthetically pleasing,” he says.

The eventual FCX mock-up was one of Bilbrey’s “top two” from the dozen different designs drawn up by the group.

“The other was more angular but Scott’s team said ‘we can’t make things like that’.”

Other concepts included co-axial rotor-equipped helicopters all the way up to “something that looks like Boba Fett’s spaceship”.

His only disappointment, he says, was that his idea for the rotor blades was not used. “I thought it was going to get a really cool design I sketched out on a napkin one day,” he says, slightly wistfully.
 

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Triton

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"Heli-Expo 2017: Bell reveals future helicopter concept"

07th March 2017 - 17:00 by Helen Haxell in Dallas

Source:
https://www.shephardmedia.com/news/rotorhub/heli-expo-2017-bell-reveals-future-helicopter-conc/

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the concept is the anti-torque system implanted in the tail boom. This would enable a thrust vectoring capability for control, heightened performance and lower noise, commented Scott Drennan, director of engineering innovation at Bell Helicopter.

'I think you'll notice a very different anti-torque design. Bell Helicopter is traditionally an open tail rotor company. We like the efficiency – it's done us well for many years. We are looking at embedding the anti-torque system inside our tail boom and using it primarily to deal with anti-torque, but you'll notice a conspicuous lack of horizontal surfaces as well.

'So, our anti-torque system will also have thrust directing in to help us control that access. We are going to be looking at a different safety and noise paradigm for Bell with this design,' Drennan stated.


Another major focus for the FCX-001 project was hybridised propulsion. This combines advanced thermal engine cores for the main propulsion with electric distribution and motors to drive the system for further control and rudimentary vehicle operations and maintenance, according to company literature.

Drennan explained further that the powerplant would consider hybridised/alternate propulsion.

This would drive an electric hybrid system in the tail rotor for a hybrid anti-torque system. In this instance, it is likely that there would be multiple fans and an allowance for a venting system on both sides of the tail, so that it can thrust in either direction
 

Triton

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https://twitter.com/Sky_Talk/status/839173107248160768
https://twitter.com/GenesysAero/status/839181661543804928
 

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bobbymike

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http://aviationweek.com/technology/bell-targets-rotorcraft-lead-concept-helicopter?NL=AW-05&Issue=AW-05_20170307_AW-05_91&sfvc4enews=42&cl=article_1&utm_rid=CPEN1000002349694&utm_campaign=8952&utm_medium=email&elq2=f017338c54084cf68e321bb5eeb75163
 

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martinbayer

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They should combine the controls with a Theremin to provide acoustic feedback...

Martin
 

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bobbymike said:
http://aviationweek.com/technology/bell-targets-rotorcraft-lead-concept-helicopter?NL=AW-05&Issue=AW-05_20170307_AW-05_91&sfvc4enews=42&cl=article_1&utm_rid=CPEN1000002349694&utm_campaign=8952&utm_medium=email&elq2=f017338c54084cf68e321bb5eeb75163

Variable sweep main rotor blades ?
So are trying to build a modern Bölkow Bo46?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%B6lkow_Bo_46
 

VTOLicious

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...Bell Helicopter formed a core group of engineers and a team of graphic designers that proved to be a highly collaborative team of problem solvers. It was through this process that the FCX-001, a concept aircraft, came to light to physically demonstrate a new way of thinking...

...Although never destined for production or even flight test, the Future Concept Helicopter – or FCX – features several technological advances that Bell believes will eventually be employed on its products...

...I think this should be shifted to "Theoretical and Speculative Projects"
 

Jemiba

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VTOLicious said:
...I think this should be shifted to "Theoretical and Speculative Projects"

I think it's borderline.
Not meant for flight testing is true for lots of experimental aircraft and Bell probably is a helicopter
manufacturer, not just a think tank or a bunch of students, trying to get their degrees.
Still yet, they only built a mock-up, but that's already more hardware, than for many other projects.
 

Triton

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Jemiba said:
VTOLicious said:
...I think this should be shifted to "Theoretical and Speculative Projects"

I think it's borderline.
Not meant for flight testing is true for lots of experimental aircraft and Bell probably is a helicopter
manufacturer, not just a think tank or a bunch of students, trying to get their degrees.
Still yet, they only built a mock-up, but that's already more hardware, than for many other projects.

I'll defer to the judgment of a Moderator on this issue. If I remember correctly, a topic concerning the Airbus Concept Plane is located on the "Postwar Aircraft Projects" board and not on the "Theoretical and Speculative Projects" board. Therefore, I reasoned that a manufacturer's trade show concept had more credibility than a university research project. Also remember that we have topics for NASA-funded research projects on the "Postwar Aircraft Projects" board. How likely are the NASA projects to reach an aircraft assembly line? If the "Bell Helicopter FCX-001" topic is moved to the "Theoretical and Speculative Projects" board, there are existing topics on the "Postwar Aircraft Projects" board that need to be relocated with it.
 

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Anderman said:
bobbymike said:
http://aviationweek.com/technology/bell-targets-rotorcraft-lead-concept-helicopter?NL=AW-05&Issue=AW-05_20170307_AW-05_91&sfvc4enews=42&cl=article_1&utm_rid=CPEN1000002349694&utm_campaign=8952&utm_medium=email&elq2=f017338c54084cf68e321bb5eeb75163

Variable sweep main rotor blades ?
So are trying to build a modern Bölkow Bo46?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%B6lkow_Bo_46

Nothing quite that complex, I think. The Bo46 varied the angle of the blades relative to the hub within a single revolution. Bell seems to just be talking about changing the rotor geometry by adjusting the rake of the blade tips for different flight regimes.
 

ZacYates

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Jemiba said:
Bell probably is a helicopter manufacturer
;D ;D

This thing gets weirder and more interesting the more I see and read of it.

"It is different, but it’s a different Bell" - I don't think "That's a Bell" when I look at it. It's just so different, but I guess that's progress.

Grey Havoc said:
it looks like something that would be at home in something like, say, the Shadowrun universe.
After you mentioned that I realised it also really, really looks like a Transformers character from one of my favourite games:
latest
 

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Hi,

why that variable sweep blades ?.
 

TomS

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Just the blade tips. Straight out for maximum diameter and efficiency in hover, then raked back to reduce compressibility effects and increase speed in forward flight.
 

hesham

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TomS said:
Just the blade tips. Straight out for maximum diameter and efficiency in hover, then raked back to reduce compressibility effects and increase speed in forward flight.

Thank you Tom,I designed a same idea but for anther use from long time ago.
 

yasotay

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I think the new CEO is working hard to get Bell to explore a bit more. I have had the privilege of working with many of the senior, and in most cases now retired, engineering staff. All very knowledgeable and intelligent men, they suffered under the dual anchors of conservative corporate leadership and a equally conservative customer base, both commercial and military. The Information Revolution is changing the customer base and how it thinks. I can tell you that I have seen a big change at two of the OEM where there are now a lot of young faces in the engineering staff. This is a good thing. I believe that the CEO is recognizing these changes and is shaking up the old order. So while the FCX-001 may never see the light of day I think the real message is that Bell is moving into the 21st Century.

My opinion.
 

TomS

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hesham said:
TomS said:
Just the blade tips. Straight out for maximum diameter and efficiency in hover, then raked back to reduce compressibility effects and increase speed in forward flight.

Thank you Tom,I designed a same idea but for anther use from long time ago.

Yeah, it's an idea that comes up fairly often. Sometimes they talk about changing the whole blade diameter, like Sikorsky's Variable Diameter Tiltrotor concept.

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/sikorsky-tries-out-variable-tilt-rotor-22590/
 

VTOLicious

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Triton said:
Jemiba said:
VTOLicious said:
...I think this should be shifted to "Theoretical and Speculative Projects"

I think it's borderline.
Not meant for flight testing is true for lots of experimental aircraft and Bell probably is a helicopter
manufacturer, not just a think tank or a bunch of students, trying to get their degrees.
Still yet, they only built a mock-up, but that's already more hardware, than for many other projects.

I'll defer to the judgment of a Moderator on this issue. If I remember correctly, a topic concerning the Airbus Concept Plane is located on the "Postwar Aircraft Projects" board and not on the "Theoretical and Speculative Projects" board. Therefore, I reasoned that a manufacturer's trade show concept had more credibility than a university research project. Also remember that we have topics for NASA-funded research projects on the "Postwar Aircraft Projects" board. How likely are the NASA projects to reach an aircraft assembly line? If the "Bell Helicopter FCX-001" topic is moved to the "Theoretical and Speculative Projects" board, there are existing topics on the "Postwar Aircraft Projects" board that need to be relocated with it.

IMHO the FCX-001 concept is at the same level of maturity as the Airbus Pop.Up concept ;)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/08/airbus-shows-futuristic-flying-car-geneva-motor-show/
 

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GTX

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Forget the car, but the air transport module in the above post could have interesting applications.
 

Triton

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"OPINION: Why Bell had to impress with FCX concept"
13 March, 2017 SOURCE: Flight International BY: Flight International

Source:
https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/opinion-why-bell-had-to-impress-with-fcx-concept-435032/

For all its storied history of aviation firsts, Bell Helicopter has in recent years become stuck in a rut.

Gone was its pioneering spirit, to be replaced with a steady-as-she-goes attitude that translated into the churning out of endless derivatives of old designs.

What, then, to make of the Future Concept Helicopter the company unveiled at the recent Heli-Expo show?

By Bell’s own admission, the mock-up will never fly. Instead it is designed to show that it is embracing its innovative past and coming up with ideas that will help to shape its future.

Naysayers will, of course, point out that it is a design that has been achieved at very little cost, with minimal risk to the bottom line. Any other manufacturer could have done the same, they argue.

But that is to miss the point. With the rotorcraft market currently becalmed, and the launch of a new programme clearly some distance off, Bell needed to make a statement, particularly with the show located in Dallas, its home town, this year.

Hopefully it is a sign that under the guidance of chief executive Mitch Snyder, Bell’s outlook has changed and that the manufacturer is now willing to look beyond the narrow confines of traditional rotorcraft design.


But the proof will be in whatever it develops next. If there is simply yet another refresh of the 412, say, then a golden opportunity will have been squandered.
 

Triton

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Bell Helicopter Innovation, FCX-001,Hybridized Propulsion,Adv.Anti-Torque Concept,Morphing Blades..

https://youtu.be/k_8n2kVvn_Q
 

Triton

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Mock-up of Bell Helicopter FCX-001

Source:
http://www.cnbeta.com/articles/tech/591057.htm
 

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Triton

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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.


Advanced Anti-Torque Concept

Bell Helicopter is developing new anti-torque systems that will change the safety, noise and performance parameters of vertical lift aircraft forever. In this example our anti-torque system is embedded in the tail boom for enhanced safety, providing thrust vectoring capability for control.


Advanced Airframe Design

Using advanced sustainable materials to provide structural performance and offer configurations that our customers desire. In order to provide enhanced visibility and room, we are exploring the right combination of materials and optimized geometry. The airframe is our front line for energy management where we harvest, store, attenuate and distribute external energy or system energy not already employed for useful work on the air vehicle.


Morphing Rotor Blades

Morphing structural geometries will allow aircraft to optimize performance in different flight regimes. Bell is a pioneer in this area having developed the tiltrotor concept of one geometry for helicopter mode flight and a completely different geometry for airplane mode flight. Now we explore individual morphing geometries such as blades, inlets, aerodynamic surfaces, whether through advanced actuation or materials, or both, to push beyond the enhancements that we originally created.


Virtual Cockpit

One pilot seat. Removing the traditional Multi Function Display (MFD) flight deck for enhanced visibility from the pilot seat creating an entirely new experience. We see pilots of the future controlling the aircraft with the aid of augmented reality and an artificial intelligence computer assistance system. This takes us from computer augmented piloting, much like we have today with Fly-By-Wire systems, to optionally piloted vehicles where the pilot assumes the role of safety and mission officer aboard the aircraft while the computer flies with him. This is the stepping stone to the fully autonomous unpiloted VTOL air vehicles.


Enhanced Cabin Design

A concept modular flooring systems allows for rapid seating configuration changes so that the cabin can be customized for many types of passenger, cargo or mission based requirements. LED lighting in the overhead canopy can be fully customized in color and brightness depending on passenger preference. 360-degree pop-down air ventilation systems to allow for increased comfort on demand.


Advanced Landing Gear

There is an important design aesthetic to this gear but we are exploring how non-traditional geometries, including wheels, tires and support structures can facilitate function when combined with advanced materials. As an example, actuation can improve maneuverability and absorb landing energy for improved safety and comfort in ground operations.


Flight Control Technology

At the heart of the fly-by-wire system are three separate and independent flight control computers. Upon receiving digital commands from the pilots, the system evaluates and calculates the optimal method to achieve the order; assuring the aircraft is not compromised and is supported by extra system redundancy.

Source:
http://bellhelicopter.com/company/innovation
 

RavenOne

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Slightly remiss of me as was pushed from pillar to post last week at HAI 2017 in Dallas so finally back on terra firma and here are my photos of the FCX001

cheers

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The mockup is quite disappointing in terms of aesthetics (see Airbus H160 how you make a great looking helicopter with the help of Peugeot) and the list of technologies included sounds a bit like random name dropping, similar to Airbus Pop Up mentioned earlier.
 

yasotay

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Reaper said:
The mockup is quite disappointing in terms of aesthetics (see Airbus H160 how you make a great looking helicopter with the help of Peugeot) and the list of technologies included sounds a bit like random name dropping, similar to Airbus Pop Up mentioned earlier.

Aesthetics aside, in the eye of the beholder any way, I think the entire message is that Bell is trying to get out front again with its product. Given the variations of the 680 rotor systems with variation of 206 fuselage that has been their mainstay for decades, I am hopeful they will be more aggressive.
 

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"Bell Helicopter unveils futuristic FCX-001 concept aircraft"
Posted on March 7, 2017 by Oliver Johnson

Source:
https://www.verticalmag.com/news/bell-helicopter-unveils-futuristic-fcx-001-concept-aircraft/

Bell Helicopter has unveiled its vision of the future of vertical lift at Heli-Expo 2017 in Dallas, Texas, in the highly-stylized shape of the FCX-001 concept aircraft.
Helicopter in flight

The FCX-001 was inspired by the concept cars produced by automobile manufacturers for major auto shows. Bell Helicopter Image. Bell Helicopter Image
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Appearing at Bell’s booth both in the form of a full-scale mockup and in virtual reality through the use of immersive headsets, the medium twin-engine aircraft incorporates some technologies currently in development at Bell and likely to mature in the near future, as well as those that are a bit more ambitious in their reach — as evidenced in a cockpit that is entirely free of physical controls.

Notable elements in the FCX-001’s design include a fan-driven anti-torque system, hybridized propulsion, morphing main rotor blade tips, an extensive use of glass in the fuselage, gull-wing doors, and the use of augmented reality in the cockpit to control the aircraft.

On the ceiling of the widened cabin, which is configured for eight passengers at Heli-Expo, but is capable of accommodating up to 12, Bell has designed a honeycomb of drop-down control modules to allow for maximum customization and comfort for passengers. The concept envisions the modules providing the ability for passengers to adjust things such as their lighting, temperature, or infotainment experience.

During a pre-show unveiling of the concept to industry media, Bell CEO Mitch Snyder said the FCX-001 was inspired by the concept cars produced by automobile manufacturers for major auto shows.

“I said, ‘Let’s take the same thing to HAI [Heli-Expo] this year. Let’s come up with our concept aircraft, take those technologies we’ve been working on — not all of them, but some of them — and apply them to a concept aircraft, and let people come see the things [we’re doing] and the ideas we’re having,’ ” he said.

“This is a different Bell, this is a different place we’re going, and this gives you a peek at what we’re working on, without showing you everything. So, some of those technologies are there, and some of them are not quite, yet. Some are going to mature quicker than others. But the main thing to is you’re seeing different lines, a different look and a different feel of what Bell Helicopter can be.”

To reach such a goal required a novel approach to the aircraft’s design. The company threw together a group of engineers and designers, led by director of innovation Scott Drennan, and senior brand strategist Levi Bilbrey, respectively, and gave them free reign to push the boundaries of rotary-wing design, with just a handful of set requirements to meet. Among these were the hybridization of at least part of the drive system, advanced anti-torque, more autonomous operation, noise reduction, and a more pleasing passenger experience.

Drennan said there was some initial hesitancy between the engineering and design teams, but they quickly developed a symbiotic and mutually beneficial relationship. “It turns out engineers need a push towards the sci-fi; and it turns out the creative folks, if you’re going to embark on a mission like building aircraft that are actually field-able, safe, and good for the operational standpoint of all our customers, they need a little bit of a pull.”

The process began with the design team creating rough sketches detailing 12 unique looks, and these were gradually evolved with the input of the engineering team and then whittled down to the final design. And in another groundbreaking move, the team used virtual reality as a design tool as they developed the FCX-001.

“We can put a pilot or engineer in the seat of the aircraft and have them make real-time design decisions about, ‘I don’t have enough head clearance here,’ or, ‘My sight line is blocked there,’ [or,] ‘These seats feel a little too large [or] too small,” said Bilbrey. “The virtual reality tools helped us a lot with that, because we can visualize something that doesn’t exist yet.”

Stepping into Tomorrow’s World

Taking a more detailed look at the FCX-001’s design, beginning with the rear of the aircraft, it does not feature a tail rotor — a notable departure for Bell. Instead, the anti-torque is provided by multiple fans imbedded within the tailboom. The vented system gives the capability to thrust in either direction, and will also have thrust vector control, allowing it to forgo a horizontal stabilizer.

Powering that anti-torque system is an electric motor as part of a hybridized propulsion system.

“Normally you’d have a drive system that exits the main propulsion unit and travels down the tailboom into a gearbox — usually in a lot of ours, a 45-degree gearbox,” said Drennan. “[In the FCX-001] that system changes altogether. Electricity is the distribution method, so you have wires and a generator up close to the thermal engine up top, and then it would culminate in electric motors.”

On top of the aircraft, the morphing main rotor blades are sure to be an attention-grabbing aspect at Heli-Expo. Essentially, the technology aims to allow the tip of each blade to move between different flight regimes, much like a “swing wing” on an airplane, to maximize efficiency and performance, and reduce noise.

“Straight out, you’re getting an efficiency in hover, and creating the noise that comes with that mission performance piece,” said Drennan. “Then you change by sweeping them back a little bit, where you don’t need the full diameter in forward flight, and also changing the noise profile that’s out there at the tip.”

The airframe itself is also quite different to anything Bell has done previously. In terms of scale, the FCX-001 is a little bit bigger than a Bell 412 in terms of both length and width, but its lines and extensive use of glass would present a few challenges in production, with a heavy reliance on composite materials.

Inside, the FCX-001 has just one pilot seat. “In a , that’s quite unusual, but we’d like to cue up a future vision here that through computer assistance [and] artificial intelligence, you want to place the pilot in the situation where their higher brain function is doing your mission control and your important safety functions, and let the computers [and] sensors you have on board do the dumb, dirty, dangerous and dull,” said Drennan.

In front of that pilot seat is a clear field of view, unobstructed by any displays ¾ or controls. These will all be provided in the form of augmented reality, in which a pilot wearing a headset will be able to create their own workspace. The idea is that the headset will be able to recognize the pilot’s hands in space, allowing them to create and move different screens around the cockpit, and even anchor them to certain points in space so that they don’t move when the pilot moves his or her head.

“It’s an interesting concept because you can customize your flight deck, pull up the controls you need when you need them, or set automated directives and just get the feedback instead of always cluttering up your screen,” said Bilbrey. “Microsoft HoloLens is a good example that exists today, [but] obviously conceptually we’re hoping that technology advances as well and can work with our flight systems.”

But how far down the line are such technologies? “Much a like a concept car . . . you’ll start to see next gens of that car company start to take influence from their concept,” said Bilbrey. “I think that’s what we’d hope for this. Certain technologies on this might be sooner than later, and some things are a little bit further reaching just to influence not only ourselves, but the industry.”

In the nearer term, Drennan said that Bell is already running a test bench of the anti-torque fan technology, and is also setting up a hybrid system.

Before its unveiling at Heli-Expo, the FCX-001 had been shown to only a handful of people within the industry. “There’s some excitement, but there’s also some challenges,” said Bilbrey. “Why would it look like that? Why would it try to perform a certain way or change certain things? We’ve had a lot of wow responses, and then I think we’re anticipating some questions obviously to challenge us to see where we take it next.”

The concept design is the most visible result of a renewed emphasis on innovation at the Bell, instigated by Snyder.

“If you look across all of us [manufacturers], we’re kind of standard in what we do,” he said. “I want to push the envelope to say this is what we can be as an industry. We can be different. We can be that future. I push really hard for Bell to say, we’ve been pioneers in the past, we’ve pushed the envelope in the things we’ve done and what we’ve invented. Let’s push the envelope here and take it to a new level.”
 

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