Honeywell is developing a new line of electromechanical actuators specifically targeted at the urban air mobility market.
Announced on Jan. 29, the actuators will use electricity alone to move primary flight control surfaces, in contrast to the hydraulics, cables, and pushrods found on most conventional aircraft. Specifically designed to meet the vibration, power, and weight profiles of eVTOL aircraft, according to Honeywell, they will be able to make hundreds of tiny adjustments per second, enabling precise control of novel fly-by-wire designs.
Becky Sidelinger, president of Honeywell’s Mechanical Systems & Components business unit, said that such agility will be essential in the demanding urban environments where eVTOL aircraft are expected to operate.
“These vehicles will have a significant number of takeoffs and landings in lower-altitude urban environments, where they may encounter things like unusual winds and updrafts from thermals. When navigating these challenges in a busy city, precision control is key,” she stated in a press release.
Speaking to eVTOL.com at HAI Heli-Expo 2020 in Anaheim, California, product line director Brian Berry said that the new line of lightweight, power-dense actuators builds on Honeywell’s more than six decades of experience in the field. He estimated that Honeywell aerospace-grade actuators have collectively flown around 75 billion hours, but generally in secondary or utility applications.
With new eVTOL designs — where weight will be especially critical and heavy hydraulic flight control systems impractical — electromechanical actuators will take on new importance for primary flight control. In such applications, Berry said, “you have to have extremely high reliability coupled with redundancy.”
That, of course, will demand correspondingly stringent certification requirements — the details of which are the subject of ongoing conversations between regulators and industry, he said.
Honeywell’s new actuation product line further expands its portfolio of offerings for the urban air mobility market. Other Honeywell products targeted toward eVTOL aircraft include a compact fly-by-wire system, the IntuVue RDR-84K Band Radar system, and lightweight inertial navigation systems.
The company is actively seeking to position itself as a leading supplier in the space, and has already announced strategic alliances with eVTOL developers including Pipistrel, Volocopter, Vertical Aerospace, and Jaunt Air Mobility.
Honeywell also recently announced a collaboration with the Swiss startup Daedalean to collaborate on vision-based autopilot systems for general aviation and eVTOL aircraft.