Honeywell is deepening its reach into the emerging Urban Air Mobility (UAM) market with a slate of recent announcements on new collaborations and investments. In May 2021, Honeywell signed a long-term agreement with global Japanese firm DENSO, establishing an alliance focused on developing electric propulsion units for UAM. The following month, Honeywell announced that it had been selected by German-based Lilium to develop the 7-Seater Lilium Jet’s avionics and flight control systems. Beyond providing systems and parts, Honeywell has revealed that it will also be taking stakes in Lilium and Vertical Aerospace in the UK.
Electric propulsion systems for UAM
“As electric propulsion for aircraft takes shape, Honeywell will be at the forefront with partners like DENSO,” said Dave Marinick, president, Engines & Power Systems, Honeywell Aerospace. DENSO is the number two global automotive parts manufacturer (behind Bosch). The Japan-based company supplies OEM and aftermarket components and systems for most of the world’s carmakers including powertrain systems, vehicle electronics, electrification systems and cockpit systems, as well as automated driving technologies.
Drawing from their automotive and aerospace backgrounds, the companies will develop and manufacture electric propulsion systems for aircraft, with a focus on air taxis and delivery vehicles. DENSO and Honeywell have also revealed that they are in advanced discussions with current and prospective customers and intend to deliver flight test configurations of the electric propulsion systems within the next year.
Bespoke Avionics and Flight Control Technologies
Honeywell, one of the first major aerospace manufacturers to create a dedicated Urban Air Mobility business unit, has also drawn on its experience providing avionics systems for commercial airliners to design a flight control system for UAM. Honeywell will supply its compact fly-by-wire system on the all-electric 7-Seater Lilium Jet. The flight control component that will be responsible for controlling its moveable parts, including the 36 control surfaces and ducted fans that provide the UAM vehicle high levels of maneuverability.
Alongside the flight control system, Honeywell will supply its next generation integrated avionics system, which will provide a simplified user interface for the pilot to fly the Lilium Jet. The selection of Honeywell’s next-generation UAM avionics system is the result of ongoing collaboration between Lilium and Honeywell to converge on the specific technical requirements suitable for the Lilium Jet. The avionics system is designed to reduce training time and will support operation by a single pilot, freeing up greater passenger capacity.
Stakes in UAM Start-ups
In addition to its selection as a provider of the flight control system for the 7-Seater Lilium Jet, Honeywell has also become an investor in Lilium by participating in the common stock private investment in public equity (PIPE) offering announced in connection with Lilium’s SPAC merger with Qell Acquisiton Corp.
In the same vein, Honeywell will also be backing Vertical Aerospace through its subscription to a PIPE offering as the UK start-up merges with US-listed Broadstone Acquisition Corp. Honeywell will also be providing the flightdeck and fly-by-wire system on Vertical Aerospace’s VA-X4 eVTOL aircraft.
Both Lilium and Vertical Aerospace expect their aircraft to be ready for commercial operations by 2024.