Honeywell has unveiled a new research and development lab that will be used to mature technology for simplified vehicle operations in future urban air mobility (UAM) aircraft.
Located at Honeywell’s Deer Valley avionics facility in Phoenix, Arizona, the lab is configured to resemble the flight deck of a conceptual eVTOL aircraft. It has one seat positioned in front of a primary flight display, with additional wraparound screens providing a simulated view outside the aircraft. The displays and a control stick are integrated with Honeywell actuators and compact fly-by-wire flight computers, which can be programmed with actual control laws so that the simulator accurately replicates the operation of an aircraft in the real world.
According to Stéphane Fymat, vice president and general manager of Honeywell’s new unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and UAM business unit, customers will be able to use the lab to test and refine their flight control concepts, with an emphasis on making their novel aircraft easy and intuitive to fly.
“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,” Fymat stated in a press release. “With this new lab we can fully simulate real vehicle functionality with real hardware for our customers, which will cut back on costly flight test hours and help them reach their goal of attaining simplified vehicle operations.”
Simplified vehicle operations are integral to many UAM business models because they could reduce the time and expense associated with training pilots. Aircraft developers also hope that reducing pilot workload will improve safety by eliminating many human factors accidents. Additionally, higher levels of automation could help ensure smoother, more comfortable rides for passengers.
“Simplified vehicle operations is the new buzzword on how pilots are going to fly the aircraft of the future,” Honeywell senior systems engineer Andrew Baker said in a video accompanying the announcement. “If you want to roll, [the aircraft] is going to do a coordinated turn for you automatically. Another key feature of simplified vehicle operations is that we can put hard limits into the controllers so that you can’t put the aircraft into an adverse attitude.”
Honeywell has already announced a letter of intent with its customer Vertical Aerospace to collaborate on flight deck technologies for its recently unveiled eVTOL air taxi, the VA-1X. A key objective of that collaboration is to successfully demonstrate simplified vehicle operations, although Vertical Aerospace recently told eVTOL.com that it expects the VA-1X will initially be flown by fully trained and qualified pilots.