Bell Testing 429 Helicopter Autonomy Laboratory

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Bell Testing 429 Helicopter Autonomy Laboratory

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The fly-by-wire Bell 429-based flying lab is capable of autonomous flight.

Bell Textron has unveiled its 429-based Aircraft Laboratory for Future Autonomy (ALFA) helicopter equipped with fly-by-wire flight controls and capable of autonomous flight. The modified 429 made its first flight last August at Bell’s Canada assembly and delivery center in Mirabel, Quebec, then it was moved to Bell’s flight research center in Fort Worth, Texas.

The ALFA 429 was developed by Bell’s advanced programs team, and its fly-by-wire flight controls are separate from the helicopter’s aircraft safety system. This allows “for rapid development and evaluation of novel flight control technology without compromising overall safety,” according to Bell.

“Fly-by-wire flight, coupled with additional capability that [is] being integrated into ALFA, provide a great foundation for Bell to expand on its autonomous capabilities,” said Jason Hurst, executive v-p of engineering. “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.”

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