Dallas-based real estate developer Hillwood and Bell Textron, a Fort Worth-based aerospace manufacturer owned by Textron Inc, have joined forces to demonstrate a package delivery at the AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone with an unmanned aircraft system.
Hillwood and Bell collaborated with the Federal Aviation Administration, BNSF Railway, and the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition for the project. Bell’s Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) flew across the Mobility Innovation Zone (MIZ) in Fort Worth to deliver a package to the landing area.
The completion demonstrated a point-to-point unmanned aircraft system (UAS) delivery—the first in North Texas, according to the companies.
The success marks major progress for Hillwood and Bell. It demonstrates the future commercial capabilities of UAS delivery, and shows the many applications of the APT as a logistics carrier, executives at Hillwood and Bell said.
It also demonstrates that the MIZ has the scale, infrastructure, and “perfect backdrop” for the eventual commercialization of next-generation air mobility technologies. And that’s been Hillwood’s plan all along.
Several of the North Texas region’s mayors and civic officials were present for the APT flight.
“This successful test of Bell’s APT at the AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone highlights the potential for UAS to complete complex missions, moving the needle closer to connecting logistics operations directly to consumers,” Ross Perot, Jr., chairman of Hillwood, said in a statement. “Together, we are carving a path forward for future commercial operations to solve the supply chain challenges our world currently faces.”
AllianceTexas includes 27,000 acres of master-planned space that aims to lead North Texas and the nation forward with the development of futuristic ground and air transportation technologies.
Hillwood, the developer, always had plans to turn the vast spread into an AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone to develop and deploy new transportation technologies, from autonomous cars and trucks to high-flying drones. Hillwood aimed to leverage the development’s national prominence and name to create a cutting-edge center of innovation and a global catalyst for the future of mobility.
Today, AllianceTexas is an anchor that connects North Texas to global industry. It’s home to Fort Worth Alliance Airport, one of the nation’s premier intermodal hubs, and more than 525 companies.
On site at AllianceTexas is the MIZ Flight Test Center, in which projects like the UAS delivery take place. The APT flew a preprogrammed four-mile route through the MIZ, launching from the Flight Test Center, flying in complex airspace, and landing at Pecan Square, Hillwood Communities’ tech-based master-planned community in Northlake.
The APT sits in Bell’s electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) family of vehicles. According to Bell, it’s designed to take on a range of missions that go beyond package delivery, which includes critical medical transport and disaster relief.
The package delivery went like this, according to a statement: The APT initiated a vertical takeoff, and then rotated to fly on its wing. That made it “nearly silent” to anyone on the ground below.
From there, the APT reached an altitude of 300 feet above ground level and flew near I-35W to transition in and out of Class D and Class G airspace. The route was meant to demonstrate that the APT might encounter various airspace types during a commercial flight.
Bell said that it’s developing aircrafts of this kind that can reach speeds of more than 100 miles per hour and carry up to 70 pounds, and more than 100 in recent demonstrations. The vehicle is intended to be flexible and efficient, making it ideal for rapid deployment, reconfiguration, and battery swap and recharge.
The data collected during the demonstration will go toward future development that adheres to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification guidelines, according to a statement.
“Bell is proud to play a role in the first North Texas UAS package delivery, and this demonstration showcases the future application of the APT 70 as a logistics carrier,” said Mitch Snyder, president and CEO of Bell. “Testing at the MIZ showcases how Bell’s autonomous vehicles could seamlessly integrate into logistics operations and unlock new opportunities for businesses.”
More projects are to come in the future.
Bell’s mission to reimagine the experience of flight has allowed to to break many barriers in the industry, from certifying the first commercial helicopter to being a part of NASA’s first lunar mission. Now, it looks to the future and how on-demand mobility comes into play.
Through Bell and Hillwood’s partnership with the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition (TRTC), the companies will work to “create a regional ecosystem supported by leaders in government and the private sector.”
“Our region is uniquely positioned to support companies engaged in the commercialization of new technologies in air mobility,” Jeff Williams, mayor of Arlington and chairman of the TRTC, said in a statement. “We’re proud to support Bell and Hillwood in launching North Texas’ first point-to- point package delivery at the MIZ and look forward to their continued leadership in making our region an epicenter for mobility innovation.”
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