North Texas

Fort Worth Company Helping Pave the Road to the Sky

You've probably thought about it when you're stuck in a traffic jam: if only this car could fly. That dream is getting closer to reality, with Uber announcing plans to debut a flying taxi service in North Texas, and a Fort Worth company is helping pave the road to the sky.

"Bell is dreaming big again," said Scott Drennan, director of innovation at Bell Helicopter.

The company is teaming up with Uber to deliver on our "Jetsons" dreams.

Bell Helicopter's innovation team is looking to the future, with new ideas that Drennan says, "Will change the way we fly vertically."

Flying straight up is key, because the goal is to take off and land on demand in a busy city-center.

"Instead of special trips on an airline, why not take a trip every day?" said Drennan.

Uber unveiled the idea for a flying taxi service with demos debuting in North Texas by 2020.

"It even goes back to the Wright brothers, where they wanted to develop a transportation solution that people could use every day, in their normal life," said Mark Moore, director of engineering for aviation at Uber. "Finally, the technologies are ready."

Those technologies were born in Fort Worth.

NBC 5 toured a new concept helicopter that shows some early elements of how the air taxis could work. They would run on electricity.

"You would have zero operational emissions," Drennan said.

The goal is to move toward autonomy, where the aircraft could eventually fly themselves – no buttons to push in this cockpit, just a headset that lets the pilot operate a virtual control panel.

Bell even offers a virtual reality demo that lets you truly feel like you're flying across the city.

Every innovation is leading to the day when you could order your own urban air taxi.

"Short-term they talk in hundreds, long-term they talk in thousands per year," Drennan said.

Those aircraft may one day pick you up at a nearby "vertiport" and sweep you over the traffic below.

"Uber has a very strong vision about this and about the effect it can have on our communities and on everyone saving time, saving money," Drennan said. "We've been transporting people in urban and rural areas for a very long time, so these two missions, these two visions really match."

Those visions will keep us looking up, dreaming of a lift-off from gridlock.

The FAA told NBC 5 it's already working with several companies trying to develop so-called "flying cars." Any new aircraft would have to meet their safety standards and be able to operate safely in a busy air traffic environment.

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