Bell Flight & Unity Technologies
Headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas—as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Textron Inc.—Bell Flight has operated for more than 85 years and has continued to reimagine the flight experience. As industry pioneers, Bell Flight was the first to break the sound barrier and to certify a commercial helicopter. They continue to define the future of on-demand mobility and deliver exceptional aircraft experiences through their expertise.
Unity Solutions, a division of Unity Technologies that helps Clients create cutting-edge custom solutions leveraging Unity’s tools, needed a trusted partner to help them develop a highly engaging digital experience that conveys the performance advantages of Bell Flight’s line of piloted and autonomous aircraft.
Working in collaboration with Unity Solutions, TTT Studios delivered a sleek, extensible, gesture-based application that enables Bell’s sales and engineering teams to quickly define multiple speculative flight scenarios, analyze simulated performance output, and contextualize ROI metrics for Bell’s prospective customers.
TTT Studios and Unity Solutions worked together as a single integrated team to deliver a user-driven solution that met Bell Flight’s exacting requirements. TTT provided the Development and Project Management horsepower while Unity Solutions focused on User Interface Design and Quality Assurance.
Our Agile development process enabled new ideas to be discussed, tested, and implemented iteratively and throughout the engagement ensuring Bell received the final result they wanted—a highly polished application that Bell can modify and grow with, and that exemplifies Bell’s commitment to excellence.
Jonathan MitchellManager of Strategic Modeling & Simulation at Bell Flight
Delivering with Unity
Even before getting into the details of the project, it was clear that Bell Flight required a world-class experience built on a flexible architecture for their realtime 3D product configuration and simulation tool. Bell needed:
- Software they could continue to enhance on their own with new vehicles, locations, and other options post-project.
- The flexibility of being able to deploy the software on different devices and platforms from a single codebase.
- The highest quality 3D visuals and performance available to match the level of excellence that’s synonymous with their brand.
Unity is the only development platform that could support all of these requirements and was the clear choice for moving the project forward.
Research and preparation
At the outset of the work, TTT took stock of the project’s various stakeholders and their goals—Bell’s sales and engineering teams (the end users of the application), their executive team, and Bell’s internal Unity team (who would be responsible for maintaining and updating the application post-project). TTT then worked to translate Bell’s feedback into technical requirements. For example:
The application will be used by Bell’s sales force at conferences where WiFi can sometimes be unstable or unavailable. Therefore, the application couldn’t rely on a network connection for any aircraft, performance, or map data—the entire experience would have to be self-contained and stored on-device.
Mouse based inputs
Wanting to provide a premium experience, Bell’s sales force intended to showcase the application with a gesture-based user interface on Microsoft Surface Pro tablets. However, tablet devices might not always be available, so the project team had to also plan for mouse-based user inputs on traditional, standard-issue notebook computers.
Bell’s Sales team wanted the application to support a wide range of different aircraft, however their engineering team noted that different aircraft models require different mission architectures (e.g. some aircraft are more appropriate for offshore crew transport while others are more appropriate for intra-city transport of time-sensitive material). Therefore, the project team had to develop support for multiple mission architectures.
Once the core requirements were defined and documented, a project schedule, including interim milestones, was established to give everyone involved a clear understanding of what to expect over the coming months.
This project featured a number of technical challenges that the team needed to overcome. In addition to providing full offline functionality, support for multiple devices with different user input methods, and the ability for Bell’s Unity team to add new aircraft and regions of operation to the application post-project, TTT also needed to work closely with Bell’s Innovation team to ensure aircraft performance data was accurate. This involved integrating a standalone, highly complex, python-based statistical simulator directly into the application so that it could generate aircraft performance outputs and ROI metrics.
Upon identifying the project’s key technical challenges, TTT defined a series of rapid prototypes to quickly test the feasibility of various potential solutions. This ensured that development could continue on the well-defined aspects of the application at the same time as rapid prototypes were being created and assessed. This two-pronged approach de-risked the project and helped to ensure the team was able to deliver by Bell’s deadline.
Clear and consistent communication is the cornerstone of every successful project. TTT and Unity Solutions used Jira, Zoom, and Slack to stay in lockstep throughout the entire project, and the team was in touch with Bell’s stakeholders several times per week to discuss progress updates and ideas for feature enhancements. Bell was also provided with test builds of the application every two weeks so they could review new work as soon as it was completed, ensuring a steady stream of actionable feedback was provided to the team throughout the project.
The end result
The application was designed to flow through five sequential steps:
User selects which aircraft they want to run a simulation for.
User selects which global region they want to run the simulation in. Each aircraft can operate in specific regions.
User selects their desired fleet size, payload details, and waypoints for the simulation.
While the simulation calculates its results, the selected aircraft is depicted flying over terrain resembling the selected region (e.g. ocean, city).
Once the simulation is complete, the user is presented with several KPIs and charts that illustrate the performance, cost, and ROI of the selected aircraft for the specified mission architecture.
Bell wanted the option of being able to enhance and expand the application after the project came to a close. Therefore, at the start of the project, TTT baked a “hand-off” phase into the schedule to make sure Bell’s Unity engineers were set up for success. This included architecting the application with extensibility in mind, and ensuring all relevant technical documentation was complete and vetted by Bell before the project came to a close. TTT also hosted technical onboarding sessions with Bell’s Unity engineers to make sure they were fully up to speed on the code base before the end of the project.
In the end, TTT and Unity Solutions delivered a rock-solid aesthetic and technical foundation that Bell can grow with for years to come. As Bell continues to advance the state of the art in world-class aircraft, the application that Unity Solutions and TTT provided will continue to convey Bell’s global reputation for innovation and excellence.
Tyler BalabanCreative Director at Unity Solutions