As part of a transition to a broader product strategy, Bell has dropped the “Helicopter” from the company’s name and adopted the dragonfly as the new symbol of its brand, chief executive Mitch Snyder announced on 22 February.
The switch returns the company to its roots as a pioneer in aviation technology. Prior to launching into the helicopter business in the early 1940s, the original Bell Aircraft was a designer of fighters, such as the Second World War-era P-40 and the X-1 supersonic research aircraft.
By the early 1960s, the company had refocused around a portfolio of military and civil helicopters, before introducing tiltrotors to military customers. In the last few years, Bell has moved beyond helicopters and tiltrotors, experimenting with ring-wing autonomous aircraft and advanced autonomous flight controls.
As a result, the company’s leadership decided the Bell Helicopter brand was “too confining”, Snyder says.
“We’re not a helicopter company. We’re not a tiltrotor company. We’re a technology company redefining flight,” he adds.
The branding change follows a series of announcements by Bell, revealing glimpses of internal research and development projects with a wide variety of configurations that defy traditional interpretations of vertical lift aircraft.
Last year, Bell revealed the futuristic FC-X concept aircraft, showing examples of future technologies including variable-sweep rotor blades, propulsive anti-torque systems and fully autonomous flight controls. That was followed up by flight tests of the experimental Hydra, a fully autonomous ring-wing aircraft. Bell also showed off a cabin for a electric-powered air taxi at the CES consumer electronics show in January.
To illustrate the company’s broader strategy, Bell chose the shape of the four-winged dragonfly, an insect capable of taking off vertically, darting in any direction, hovering and devouring its prey.
Bell continues to produce and develop conventional helicopters for commercial and military customers, including the new 505 Jet Ranger X and 525 Relentless.
“It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to design new helicopters either,” Snyder says. “We don’t want to be confined to it. We want to create flight and that was the reason why we dropped the helicopter.”
Snyder promises that new products will be unveiled over the "next several years" as it ramps up its development efforts. "We have another new commercial product that we haven't shown you behind the scenes."