Electric aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel has chosen Honeywell’s new Compact Fly-By-Wire system for its cargo-carrying Nuuva V300 unmanned air system (UAS). The Slovenian company is seeking to use lightweight equipment and controls for the hybrid-electric aircraft, which is being developed to carry a payload of 300 kg (660 lb) on sectors of up to 300 km (186 miles).
Honeywell’s new business unit focusing on the UAS and urban air mobility (UAM) sectors developed the Compact Fly-By-Wire system by reducing the scale of technology produced for much larger aircraft, including airliners. The system is around the size and weight of a paperback book and is also intended to support passenger-carrying eVTOL aircraft.
Pipistrel has named Honeywell as a partner in its plans to develop its 801 eVTOL, which is designed for use with the Uber Elevate air taxi network in which the company is a partner. However, in May, it confirmed that plans for electric cargo-carrying aircraft and a regional airliner are being prioritized over the eVTOL for the UAM sector. Pipistrel does not expect the 801 to enter service until 2028 but aims to deliver the first Nuuva 300 to an undisclosed customer in Asia during 2023.
For takeoff and landing, the V300 uses eight independent battery-powered Pipistrel E-811 electric motors, which are already type certified and drive eight vertical rotors installed on beams connected to the aircraft’s tandem wings. The batteries can be recharged using the SkyCharge charging station that Pipistrel and Green Motion introduced in July. An internal combustion engine driving a propeller at the rear of the fuselage powers the UAV for cruise flight.
The V300 can carry up to three standard-sized Euro cargo pallets (EPALs) that are loaded by a forklift truck. The UAV can be customized for a wide variety of missions. For instance, by reducing payload and dispensing with anti-ice operating capability, the aircraft can take more fuel and carry a 50 kg (110 lb) payload up to 2,500 km (1,550 miles) while operating from altitudes as high as 8,000 feet. Taking off from lower altitudes and flying shorter distances, the UAV can carry the full 460 kg payload.
The company is also working on a scaled-down version of this design called the Nuuva V20. This would have a payload of just 20 kg and would be used for so-called last-mile local deliveries. Both aircraft are fully autonomous and will operate with pre-loaded flight plans.
Meanwhile, a second cargo aircraft is being advanced as a fixed-wing design based on Pipistrel’s Alpha Electro electric light trainer. It is being developed to be remotely piloted or manned and would be used for missions such as humanitarian relief, with packages being dropped from pods on each side of the wing and a cargo payload of almost 250 pounds.
Separately, privately owned Pipistrel is working to develop a 19-passenger aircraft that it says would fly routes of up to 300 miles at around one-quarter of the operational cost of conventional aircraft. The company reported that the so-called Miniliner concept could be ready to enter service in 2028.
Honeywell is also a partner with UK-based eVTOL developer Vertical Aerospace to provide flight controls for its VA-1X electric tiltrotor. The U.S.-based avionics and engines group formed its UAS/UAM business unit in June 2020.