Bell Unveils FCX Concept

Augmented reality and artificial intelligence come standard in futuristic helicopter design.

Bell helicopter FCX-001 concept machine
Bell Helicopter unveiled its sleek, futuristic FCX-001 concept machine at the Heli-Expo in Dallas.Bell

Bell Helicopter president Mitch Snyder today called the new FCX-001 concept a “vision of the future” when he pulled back the curtains to show off the mockup at Heli-Expo in Dallas.

The sleek new helicopter, reminiscent of an X-plane, features a single pilot seat in the center of the cockpit confirming this next-generation machine will require only a single pilot, no matter the operational conditions. An FCX pilot will control the aircraft through an “augmented reality” system tied together with an artificial intelligence computer similar to those in use aboard the F-35 fighter.

While Bell offered no performance specifics on the FCX concept machine, the company did outline a number of innovative technologies it might use, like a hybridized propulsion system combining a thermal engine core for primary power and an electric anti-torque system that not only eliminates the traditional tail rotor, but also the gears and transmission shafts that normally pull power from the main engine. The FCX main rotor blades will also morph to tailor aircraft performance to the mission at hand similar to the variable sweep of some fighter aircraft.

The airframe would be made of what Bell described as “advanced sustainable materials,” to provide the necessary structural performance, while also offering customers the configuration flexibility they need. Bell sees a highly modular cabin on the FCX, taking advantage of augmented reality technologies capable of individualizing the infotainment experience to each passenger.

As unique as the FCX concept aircraft appeared to the eye, the methodology Bell used to create the machine is almost a story in itself. The company initially created an innovation team of disparate visionaries, engineers and concept designers to imagine solutions to the problems Bell customers said they were trying to solve. After much give and tug between ideas the engineers said would work with ideas designers said might work, Bell’s team created the FCX.