Aerial Warfare

Bell Textron Reveals Bell 429 Aircraft Laboratory for Future Autonomy (ALFA) Helicopter

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Bell Textron Reveals Bell 429 Aircraft Laboratory for Future Autonomy (ALFA) Helicopter

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Bell Textron Reveals Bell 429 Aircraft Laboratory for Future Autonomy (ALFA) Helicopter
Bell Textron Reveals Bell 429 Aircraft Laboratory for Future Autonomy (ALFA) Helicopter

Bell Textron Inc., a Textron Inc. company, revealed its Aircraft Laboratory for Future Autonomy (ALFA). Developed by Bell’s Advanced Programs team, ALFA is dedicated to performing flight maneuvers with an aircraft safety system and executing autonomous fly-by-wire flights. The fly-by-wire integration was a critical step in future development of autonomous controls for Bell’s commercial aircraft, an emerging technology that aims to reduce pilot workload and enhance safety. ALFA’s aircraft safety system separates safety functions from flight control functions, allowing for rapid development and evaluation of novel flight control technology without compromising overall safety. The aircraft completed its first flight at Bell’s Commercial Assembly and Delivery Centre in Mirabel, Quebec, Canada and is now being used for further exploration at Bell’s Flight Research Center in Fort Worth, Texas.

“Fly-by-wire flight, coupled with additional capability that are being integrated into ALFA, provides a great foundation for Bell to expand on its autonomous capabilities. This aircraft will serve as a flying lab that will inform future autonomous technology development, which we can ultimately leverage to deliver the best rotorcraft solutions to global operators,” said Jason Hurst, executive vice president, Engineering, Bell.

Bell 429 Aircraft Laboratory for Future Autonomy (ALFA) Helicopter
Bell 429 Aircraft Laboratory for Future Autonomy (ALFA) Helicopter. (Photo by Bell Textron)

This is not the first time Bell has used the 429 as a platform for testing disruptive technology. The type was used to try a groundbreaking electric anti-torque system, known as EDAT (electrically distributed anti-torque) in 2020. The Bell 429 GlobalRanger is a light, twin-engine helicopter developed by Bell Helicopter and Korea Aerospace Industries. The Bell 429 is designed with the future in mind, enhancing occupant safety, with the adaptability to remain at the forefront as mission requirements evolve. The Bell 429 is chosen by police forces, air medical teams and militaries around the world for time-sensitive missions. The aircraft has been chosen by customers in 42 countries, including Australia, France, Indonesia, Kuwait, Oman, Switzerland, Slovakia, Sweden, Turkey, Thailand, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Bell is committed to developing technology that will provide the best possible, advanced solution for current and future customers. Bell’s Advanced Programs team continues to explore technology development to elevate Bell’s products for Commercial and Military customers. Bell Textron Inc. is an American aerospace manufacturer headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. A subsidiary of Textron, Bell manufactures military rotorcraft at facilities in Fort Worth, and Amarillo, Texas, USA as well as commercial helicopters in Mirabel, Quebec, Canada.

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