Honeywell has opened a research and development laboratory to demonstrate new technology for the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and urban air mobility (UAM) markets. The facility, which is located at the company’s avionics center in Phoenix, Arizona, is configured to resemble the flight deck of an eVTOL aircraft with real hardware that can be used to evaluate integrated fly-by-wire controls and other flight systems.
At the heart of the lab’s cockpit configuration is a single seat in front of a primary flight display with three additional large wrap-around displays giving a simulated view of the environment outside “the aircraft.” A key objective for the Honeywell team is to help developers of new UAS and UAM aircraft to have access to so-called simplified vehicle operations, which the company defines as a combination of “automation and human factors best practices with the goal of reducing the amount of knowledge an operator must have to safely fly an aircraft.”
The lab’s hardware includes Honeywell’s compact fly-by-wire system, which the company has been developing for eVTOL pioneers such as Vertical Aerospace and Pipistrel. Customers can use a control stick to fly a digital version of their aircraft through a high-resolution model of an urban environment. The lab’s computers and actuators react in real-time to pilot inputs, winds, and thermals, as well as simulated hazards.
With the influx of new UAM vehicles taking to the skies in the coming years, we’re seeing a growing need for operators to test real-world technology in a lab setting,” said Stephane Fymat, vice president and general manager of Honeywell Aerospace’s UAS/UAM division. “It is essential that these vehicles are as intuitive as possible and that we have a dedicated space to ensure that our systems make that a reality.”
Honeywell offers avionics, propulsion, and operational systems for a wide variety of aircraft. Its engineers are providing type certification support to several new eVTOL programs.