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Our Job Is To Move, Sense, And Control: Honeywell Actuation For Urban Air Mobility

Our Job Is To Move, Sense, And Control: Honeywell Actuation For Urban Air Mobility

We are right in the middle of what is quite possibly the most exciting time in aviation since the invention of the jet engine. The way we think about getting people or products from A to B is changing.

Significant population growth is creating a real need for innovative mobility options, as ground infrastructure becomes increasingly congested. Providing a safe and sustainable option to leverage the airspace above cities is proving to be a solution. In parallel, same-day delivery is the next evolutionary step in parcel logistics. This demand is fueled by underlying macrotrends – urbanization, increasing GDP per capita, rapid e-commerce adoption and evolving consumer expectations.

Use cases like autonomous intracity or regional travel, long-range, large-capacity cargo, and last-mile delivery of medical supplies are continuously growing.


Next Generation Transport With Next Generation Technology

These evolving needs will require new solutions. We’re moving to a world where we better leverage the sky to link people to cities and regions, giving us more ways to connect. To support the transition from road to sky, we're seeing advancement in technology and development of electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (eVTOLs).

These new vehicles will lift above populated areas, using electric power to hover, take off and land vertically, and carry either people or parcels. They combine the vertical capabilities of a helicopter with the efficiency of a plane. This makes them well-suited for both urban and rural transportation, as they can take off and land vertically in small spaces, and then transition to horizontal flight for longer distances.

They will need the latest in technology for many of the primary systems found on most aircraft, specifically for avionics, mechanical and propulsion systems. Honeywell makes this future a reality by providing these vehicle systems and integration for OEMs.


When Precise Movement And Control Is Critical

The way these vehicles will operate will drive a greater number of takeoffs and landings in dense urban environments, where they may encounter challenges like unpredictable winds, for example. Therefore, when navigating in these conditions, precision and responsiveness are key.

This is where flight control actuation comes into play. These actuators move the aircraft control surfaces and tilt the rotors. Collectively, they are responsible for controlling the aircraft's movement and maintaining flight stability. They also allow the eVTOL to take off and land safely and efficiently. Tilt actuators further enable variable geometry aircraft configurations that maximize the value of motors across different flight segments.

Honeywell flight control actuators can accept hundreds of tiny adjustments and commands per second from fly-by-wire computers, enabling precise control and navigation and allowing aircraft designers to maximize flight efficiency and safety. These work together to constantly monitor the aircraft's position and adjust the movement of the control surfaces and rotors to keep it stable and on course. Actuation is typically unseen to the eye but provides the fundamental and vital capabilities for flight.

However, there are several challenges that arise in actuation specific to urban air mobility aircraft, and Honeywell is working hard to address these challenges for our customers.


Fail-Safe Operations Due To Dual-Lane Architecture

One of the major challenges faced by the industry is ensuring the reliability of the actuation system. Any failure in the system could result in catastrophic consequences, and hence, it is imperative that the system always operates flawlessly. Honeywell utilizes an innovative and proprietary architecture that self-monitors and enters a fail-passive mode in the event of a major failure. Other non-Honeywell solutions use architectures that are slower at detecting failures and more prone to false alarms impacting actuator availability.

Honeywell's unique “Command-Command” or “Com-Com” system provides two independent control lanes within the actuator, each with independent control and shutoff capability. This ensures that even if one lane fails, the other can prevent hazardous runaway or oscillatory response, eliminating the risk of a catastrophic failure. Our Com-Com system ensures best-in-class aircraft safety with robustness to environmental and manufacturing errors.


Smaller And More Efficient Solutions

The size and weight of the multitude of actuators have a significant impact on the overall performance of the aircraft. Honeywell actuators are smaller, lighter, more reliable and more cost-efficient than most of the aerospace-grade actuators available today. With 10% greater power density, Honeywell actuators allow operators to save on power, range and payload without sacrificing performance.


Seamless Integration With Core Honeywell Products For A Lower Cost, Faster Path To Certification

Finally, the length of aircraft development cycles is another major challenge faced by the industry. With long development cycles, the cost of development can skyrocket, making it difficult for operators to bring new aircraft to the market in a timely and cost-effective manner. By selecting Honeywell actuation, operators can leverage validated and integrated solutions to shave off a substantial amount of development time. Furthermore, when coupled with Honeywell's compact fly-by-wire system, we estimate OEMs can save up to nine months of aircraft development time due to the common architecture in the electronics.


In Conclusion

For decades, Honeywell has led the way in the field of aircraft actuation technology. Our actuators have logged more than 85 billion hours of mission critical flight. They went to the moon with Neil Armstrong 50 years ago and can be found on the International Space Station today. We are the leading motion control systems supplier on over 80% of US and European satellites. And around the world, an aircraft lands safely every three seconds using Honeywell actuation systems. For urban air mobility, we’re combining our proven legacy solutions with next-gen technology to help eVTOL OEMs in efficiently and economically launching their aircraft, guaranteeing these new actuation systems are dependable, lightweight and compact.

Ready to learn more about the latest in technology for many of the primary systems found on these new aircraft? Let us know using the form below.
Alison Wyrick
Director, Global Customer Marketing