Honeywell hopes to fly autonomously high

  • June 17, 2020
  • Steve Rogerson

Honeywell has formed a business unit dedicated to the growing unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and urban air mobility (UAM) industries. The business unit will combine the firm’s technology, software, services and certification expertise.
“Urban air mobility and unmanned aerial systems will play an increasing role in the future of aerospace, with potential applications in all-electric urban air taxi vehicles, hybrid-electric unmanned cargo drones, optionally piloted airplanes, delivery drones and everything in between,” said Mike Madsen, president and CEO of Honeywell Aerospace. “Honeywell has already contributed many technological advancements to these markets, and is well positioned to continue growing our portfolio to meet customer needs and help shape the future of autonomous aviation and urban transport.”
Equipped with its own engineering and sales resources, the UAS business unit will develop products and services required for these markets. It will also act as a systems integrator for all Honeywell products and services that could be used in this industry.
These offerings include aircraft systems such as avionics, electric and hybrid-electric propulsion and thermal management, flight services such as unmanned air traffic management, and ground operations services such as predictive aircraft maintenance analytics. Beyond technology development, this business will be a single point of contact for aircraft designers or operators to do business with Honeywell.
“We’re seeing the dawn of a new era in aviation, and Honeywell is at the forefront,” said Stéphane Fymat, vice president and general manager of the business unit. “By forming this new organisation, we will be able to harness the power of our engineering resources and know-how to transform urban air taxis, drone delivery of parcels and all forms of autonomous flight from a future vision into an everyday reality.”
The organisation will further expand Honeywell’s portfolio of UAM products, and is focused on software development, driving rapid development and testing of products such as:

  • A fly-by-wire autopilot system that automatically ensures aircraft stability even if the pilot is hands off for extended periods;
  • Detect-and-avoid algorithms that automatically fly an aircraft around oncoming traffic; and
  • Artificial intelligence software that tracks landing zones for precise vertical landings.

Honeywell provides systems for urban air taxi and cargo vehicles as well as other types of aircraft, including integrated avionics, flight controls, electric and hybrid-electric propulsion, actuation, and cabin environmental control systems. The company collaborates with others in the industry such as Pipistrel, Vertical Aerospace, Volocopter and Jaunt Air Mobility.

Beyond UAM, discussions are also underway with users pursuing other unmanned flight operations, such as drone package delivery.

• Honeywell has launched its smallest, lightest satellite communications system yet, designed for unmanned aerial vehicles. Weighing in at 1kg, the system is 90% lighter than Honeywell’s smallest connectivity system and will bring some of the same connectivity capabilities enjoyed by larger aircraft to smaller unmanned vehicles in the air or on land.