When Bell Helicopter introduced the initial design of their FCX-001 aircraft at the Heli-Expo 2017 in Texas, people were amazed. It’s the first helicopter with futuristic and sustainable features. What the people didn’t know is that Bell designed it in a just span of six months. And, they made it possible because of virtual reality.
According to Bell, it takes five to seven years to design a helicopter. During that time, their team need to draw designs, revise their drafts, create mockups, do pilot testing, focus groups, and more. There are multiple iterations in every stage. The process is time-consuming and expensive in nature.
But with virtual reality, they completed the design phase in six months. That’s ten times faster than the traditional process.
Bell Helicopter began their VR journey when they employed people who specialise in 3D/VR design. Their team generated the helicopter’s initial design in CAD and then passed to VR artists who produced real-time VR material.
Then, Bell used HTC Vive headsets so test pilots and engineers can examine the features of the helicopter in VR. No more building multiple physical mockups. During the VR testing, Bell gets feedback from their test pilots and engineers about the things they should change, keep, and improve.
Features of the FCX-001 Aircraft
- Morphing rotor blades that can change to suit different flight conditions
- Airframe constructed from sustainable materials
- Hybrid power system
- AI co-pilot, allowing the pilot to take a break in the back seat.
- Modular flooring system so you can customize the seat layout and remove unnecessary seats to make room for cargo.
- Flight has augmented reality for passenger infotainment
Bell said they might have saved millions of dollars because they shortened the design process. And, the VR materials they have turned out to be a perfect marketing material.
Because of the success of their first VR project, Bell thinks of modernizing other parts of their business, particularly in training their staff and maintenance crew.