Bell Aircraft Use HTC Vive To Create Their Revolutionary FXC-001 Helicopter

The new virtual reality workflow reduces development time from seven years to six months.

United States based aircraft manufacturer Bell Aircraft are known for creating firsts within the aircraft industry. The list of achievements the company has to its name including designing and building the first American jet fighter, the first helicopter certified for civilian use and the first aircraft to break the sound barrier. Now, HTC Vive have released a new video on their YouTube channel that explores how the company leveraged the power of virtual reality (VR) to design their revolutionary new FXC-001 helicopter.

Bell Aircraft HTC Vive

The new FCX-001 is designed to point the way to the future of aircraft thanks to its virtual cockpit and advanced airframe design. The typical process of designing, developing and manufacturing a helicopter is anytime between five to seven years but thanks to the new workflow empowered by HTC Vive, this was reduced to only six months.

“Using VR as a design tool was sort of an ‘aha!’ moment” Explains Levi Bilbrey, Creative Lead, Creative Team, Bell Aircraft: “What if we put it in a room and then put the engineer in the room with it and let him draw on the 3D model and use that to go to the next stage of development and make some of these real-time decisions.”

Because the process is such a long one the cost is also very high with a delay costing upwards of millions in revenue. By working with HTC Vive and Sector 5 Digital, Bell were able to build a virtual mock-up for the FXC-001 and instantly incorporated feedback and fixed issues early on in the development cycle.

Bell Aircraft HTC Vive

“We do VR design studies, it cost us a lot of money to mock-up a part in real life we’d rather just do lots of iterations on it inside VR and then decide where we want to go then cut metal after that or cut tools after that.” Adds Scott Drennan, Director, Innovation, Bell Aircraft.

The creative freedom that comes from using VR in the development cycle not only saves time and money but also ensures a faster turn-around on fixing issues. For example, a pilot can sit in the 3D model of an aircraft and make adjusts to the field-of-view and paneling in real-time without needing to wait days or weeks for an updated model or prototype.

“This type of process is actually working really well because now we can sit in a 3D model and so that allows us the real-time abiliy to say ‘that’s to far’ or ‘I don’t have enough visibility through this part of the window’ so we can drag lines and move things and it’s a dynamic shift and it happens on the fly” Explains Will Williamson, Demonstration Pilot, Bell Aircraft.

VRFocus will be sure to bring you all the latest on Bell Aircraft and HTC Vive in the future so stay tuned for more. You can see the full video for yourself below also.

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