Honeywell has joined forces with UK electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft developer Vertical Aerospace to address what it calls "the technical, regulatory and business challenges of the emerging urban air mobility (UAM) segment".
The pair have signed a memorandum of understanding, to be formalised early in the third quarter, under which Bristol-based Vertical Aerospace will integrate Honeywell systems and technology into its future aircraft.
This will include avionics, navigation equipment and a new compact fly-by-wire system, launched by Honeywell in early June.
Contained in a box the size of a paperback book, the in-development computer "packs the brains" of an airliner's flight controls into one system, says Honeywell.
The feature "adds stability" to small eVTOL-type aircraft by driving electric actuators and dynamically adjusting control surfaces and motors to provide a smooth flight.
It reduces turbulence and allows designers to "push the limits of aerodynamics", says Honeywell, eliminating the need for heavy hydraulics, control cables or pushrods. The fly-by-wire system also features a triplex flight-control computer architecture, providing multiple back-up options in the event of a failure.
"Honeywell's technology truly enables these innovative aircraft to fly more safely, accelerating a whole new era in what is quickly emerging as a new transportation economy," says Carl Esposito, president, electronic solutions for the Phoenix, Arizona-headquartered firm.
Vertical Aerospace co-founder and chief executive Stephen Fitzpatrick calls UAM "a key feature of cities of the future".
The company is planning to bring the first of a family of "carbon-free" eVTOL aircraft to market within four years. It flew a full-scale, unmanned technology demonstrator in June 2018, and is now developing a five-seat piloted version that it hopes to unveil in 2020.
"Combining Honeywell’s technology and experience in next-generation avionics with Vertical Aerospace's aircraft will allow us to make carbon-free, on-demand air mobility a reality," says Fitzpatrick.