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Honeywell Innovations Drive Aviation Sustainability

Honeywell Innovations Drive Aviation Sustainability

For more than 110 years, brilliant minds at Honeywell have been finding ways to make flying safer, more comfortable and more efficient. Our latest undertaking is helping the global aviation industry shrink its environmental footprint with innovative solutions that improve fuel efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions and push new boundaries with game-changing technology breakthroughs.

Honeywell is uniquely positioned to make an impact at a global level, with production and development programs spanning a wide range of planet-positive technologies. Examples include class-leading, fuel-efficient gas turbine propulsion engines and auxiliary power units (APUs), electric power-generation and distribution systems, fuel cells, electric propulsion systems, and sustainable aviation fuels.

In fact, Honeywell probably touches more factors in the aviation-sustainability equation than any other company you can name.  

We recognize the need for both incremental and breakthrough improvements as we work with our customers, partners and suppliers to serve the large installed base of aircraft and address emerging architectures – including new generations of electric and hybrid-electric aircraft.

Following is an overview of some of our key sustainability initiatives.

Power Generation

We’re excited to see our customers’ renewed interest in electrification, which promises to reduce fuel consumption, operating costs, greenhouse gas emissions and aircraft noise. Honeywell is developing higher power, high-voltage direct current (HVDC) generators and other components across a wide power range to support products from a few hundred kilowatts to several megawatts.  

When one of these new, state-of-the-art generators is paired with an existing turbine engine or APU, these units can be applied to everything from unmanned aerial systems and urban air mobility (UAS/UAM) vehicles, military ground assets, or narrowbody and widebody commercial aircraft.

Current offerings include 250kW and 1MW generators. The 1MW turbogenerator can produce very high amounts of electric power, even though it weighs less than 300 pounds and is about the size of a fire hydrant. It operates at 97% efficiency and with enough umph to power the equivalent of several blocks of a residential neighborhood, as we have demonstrated through ground testing.

Electric Propulsion

Honeywell is on the leading edge with electric propulsion, which will play a critical role in emerging UAS/UAM developments and future commercial fixed-wing aircraft programs. The environmental benefits of electric and hybrid-electric propulsion systems are clear. They can be designed to be cleaner, quieter, smaller and lighter than conventional propulsion engines burning fossil fuels and can be tailored to meet customer-specific requirements.

Electric propulsion units, comprised of electric motors and motor controllers, are an integral part of architectures that range from all-electric solutions that use batteries to drive motors to various hybrid configurations that use motors, small turbine engines, batteries and fuel. Whether as the sole provider of thrust to a vehicle, used in combination with thrust from an engine, or even used as a “boost” for additional power, the electric motor plays a significant role.

We believe the UAS/UAM market for motors and controllers will be a hybrid of the automotive and aerospace markets because these aircraft need to be mass-produced at a low cost but still meet aerospace standards for safety, qualification and certification. So, we’ve partnered with DENSO Corporation to create best-in-class motor and controller solutions to serve this market.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Our recent acquisition of Ballard Unmanned Systems positions Honeywell as a leader in liquid-cooled proton exchange membrane fuel cell technology for UAVs. As a power source, fuel cells deliver many environmental benefits including zero carbon emissions at the point of use, and higher efficiency than combustion engines, which reduces fuel consumption. Fuel cells also cost less to operate, are much quieter, and last up to five times longer than internal combustion engines. Drones powered by fuel cells fly three times farther than battery-powered UAVs.

Honeywell fuel cells are already powering drones built by BFD Systems, Boeing Insitu and others. The fuel cells of tomorrow may be able to replace multiple power generation systems on the aircraft, including main propulsion, auxiliary power, batteries, and emergency power systems. New solutions such as fuel cells and hybrid electric power generation enable more fuel-efficient aircraft with lower carbon emissions, compared to traditional bleed-air powered environmental controls and thermal management systems.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Honeywell is making progress along two dimensions when it comes to helping the aviation industry reduce its reliance on conventional fuels and use more sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

First, as a leading producer of propulsion engines for business jets and helicopters and APUs for various fixed-wing aircraft, we’re making sure our gas turbines can run efficiently on SAF. We are already certified to operate at up to a 50% SAF blend and are in testing to demonstrate at 100%. In fact, our first flight test with a Honeywell APU running on 100% SAF is scheduled for later this year. Over the next 5-10 years, we expect thousands of aircraft to develop the ability to operate our APUs and engines with 100% SAF. We estimate that running engines on 100% SAF will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Honeywell products by 60%-80%.

Second, the UOP business of Honeywell developed a process technology called Ecofining, which enables the production of SAF from sustainable feedstocks. Two facilities today, one in California and one in Europe, actively produce SAF using this process, and we expect more facilities to adopt the Honeywell Ecofining technology as the demand for SAF increases over the next 10 years.

A Commitment to Sustainability

Aviation was the first industrial sector to set goals to reduce its environmental impact, pledging to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050 (using 2005 as a baseline). Honeywell is pleased to join forces with customers, partners and suppliers to help the industry achieve that ambitious goal.  

Sustainability is deeply engrained in Honeywell’s corporate culture and I’m proud to share that we recently announced a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2035. This fits with our broader mission, which includes providing innovative products, services and software solutions to help our customers achieve their own sustainability goals.

We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. But we’re not satisfied. Thousands of Honeywell employees in every corner of the world work every day to leverage our expertise and domain knowledge meet our customers’ needs, improve quality of life and protect planet Earth.

To learn more about our activities, please download our Honeywell Beyond presentation, “Sustainability & Electrification: Powering Today, Transforming Tomorrow.”

David Shilliday
Vice President and General Manager, Power Systems, at Honeywell Aerospace