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Bell reveals Aircraft Laboratory for Future Autonomy and FBW operations

Fort Worth-based helicopter manufacturer Bell Textron Inc has revealed its Aircraft Laboratory for Future Autonomy (ALFA). Developed by the company’s Advanced Programs team, ALFA is dedicated to performing flight manoeuvres with an aircraft safety system and executing autonomous fly-by-wire flights.

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 Ft Worth, Texas.

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.

“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,” said Jason Hurst, executive vice president, Engineering, Bell. “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.”

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.

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