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Bell, a Textron Company
Aircraft

Bell 429

Avionics Systems

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Bell unveils fly-by-wire flying lab
The Aircraft Laboratory for Future Autonomy will serve as a flying lab, informing future autonomous tech development that Bell can leverage to deliver the best rotorcraft solutions to global operators.
ALFA, Bell's Aircraft Laboratory for Future Autonomy.

Bell Textron has revealed its Aircraft Laboratory for Future Autonomy (ALFA), based on the Bell 429 commercial aircraft. Developed by the advanced programmes team, ALFA is dedicated to performing flight manoeuvres 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, an emerging technology that aims to reduce pilot workload and enhance safety.

"Fly-by-wire flight, coupled with additional technologies that are being integrated into ALFA, provide a great foundation for Bell to expand on its autonomous capabilities," says executive vice president, engineering Jason Hurst. "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. The aircraft completed its first flight at Bell's commercial assembly and delivery centre in Mirabel in Quebec, Canada and is now being used for further exploration at Bell's flight research centre in Fort Worth, Texas.

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